Turf troubles

Summerville neighbors J.W. Myers (left) and Jason Kechak, along with 12-year-old Grady Parker, compare notes about watching their yards die this spring after applying a Scotts’ lawn product. Before realizing what was happening and before knowing Scotts would help fix the problem, Myers sowed seed in his front yard.

The Myers family of Summerville had one of those lawns, gleaming green, the envy of neighbors. This spring they fed it the turf builder they usually do.

“At first we were like, ‘Gosh, we must have a lot of weeds, that must be why these spots are turning brown,” Beth Myers said. “Then the rest of our lawn was turning brown.”

Beth and J.W. Myers are among any number of Lowcountry residents who watched their lawns or parts of them die this spring after putting down a combination fertilizer and weed killer that is considered a mainstay in the business.

Scotts, the lawn care product company, has acknowledged the problem that has spurred “more than several hundred” complaints in the region, and is working with customers to “make sure those people are able to take pride in their lawns again,” said Jim King, vice president of corporate affairs.

The company is working through a claims adjuster to repay or replace the turf builder purchases as well as handle the lawn damage.

“If that means repairing or replacing a part of that lawn, absolutely we’ll do it,” said spokeswoman Molly Jennings.

The products involved are Scotts Turf Builder Bonus S Southern Weed and Feed and Scotts Snap Southern Weed and Feed.

Oddly enough, the trouble seems to be occurring largely in South Carolina and largely in the Charleston area, King said.

The reason appears to be the widespread planting of centipede grass here.

The Myers are far from alone.

Among residents responding to a social media query, R.W. Whitaker in Mount Pleasant said he thought his wife had put out weed killer instead of fertilizer, he said.

He had to apologize.

Marvin Nochowitz in West Ashley can tell where his fertilized yard ends and his neighbor’s yard begins, “a definite line between dead and not dead,” he said.

“Our yards look horrendous,” said Wanda Cavazos of North Charleston.

The brown-out also is occurring in Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina and parts of Florida, according to the company website, and Scotts is changing out the products in stores.

Scotts this year replaced a long-used herbicide, atrazine, in the product sold in the region with another herbicide, metsulfuron.

That apparently spurred the problems, King said, despite no indication of brown-outs in fields tests in Florida. The company is continuing testing “to get a better understanding of what happened,” King said

The Environmental Protection Agency in 2013 launched a program protecting community drinking water from atrazine, despite a study it released earlier finding little or no health effect on humans.

The federal agency currently is studying metsulfuron.

There’s apparently no residual effect of the herbicide, or weed killer, and grass can be reseeded or resod. But people should wait 30 days before reseeding or resodding, Jennings said.

Claims for the refund must include sales receipts for the product; claims for lawn repair must include receipts and photos of the damage, among other information.

Beth Myers said a claims adjuster hired by the company has been in touch with her. Other customers who spoke to The Post and Courier said they have been happy with Scotts’ response so far, but had not yet been compensated.

“They have been very helpful, very professional, perfectly willing to pay for it,” said Tierney Rasheed of Mount Pleasant.

One resident said she is having trouble getting a sales receipt from the landscaper who did the work.

King and Jennings said customers having difficulties should contact customer service.

“We want to make things as easy as possible for these folks,” Jennings said.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.