Well water that students were drinking at Triangle Lake Charter School, located outside of Eugene, contained the pesticide imazapyr, according to a sample sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for testing in April 2011. Now a study by the USDA in the spring of 2012 of 22 Oregon rural schools using wells shows that one other Eugene-area school and two Corvallis-area schools had pesticides in their water. The Triangle Lake school was also tested and had imazapyr in the water again.
The Triangle Lake/Highway 36 area has been the subject of controversy over pesticide sprays for years and the issue has gained national attention through a story on PBS’s NewsHour. Residents, including children, in the Triangle Lake area have tested positive for the chemicals atrazine and 2,4-D in their urine.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) gathered the school water samples, which were analyzed by the USDA. Day Owen of the Pitchfork Rebellion, one of the groups protesting the chemicals that private forest owners aerially spray or otherwise apply to the land, says that state agencies did not know about the USDA program testing school water for free “until they found out about it through us; they then used it to not only confirm our Triangle Lake result but to test the other schools.”
The Corvallis schools — Dixie Elementary and Fairplay Elementary — had the most chemicals in their water at 12 each. Applegate Elementary, south of Veneta, had seven: atrazine, bromacil, desethyl atrazine, desisopropyl atrazine, diuron, prometon and propazine. Crow High School was the other Eugene-area school tested and had no chemicals, nor did Corvallis’ Mountain View Elementary. The full study is available the Oregon Health Authority website at wkly.ws/1d1 and the OHA report says, “None of the pesticides or their breakdown products were found at levels of concern for public health (based on the comparison of health screening levels for individual pesticide concentrations).”
The OHA recommends schools with multiple pesticides detected in their drinking water contact OHA or other experts to investigate and learn more about the connection between surface and groundwater supplying their wells and contact the drinking water protection staff at DEQ if they wish to initiate voluntary pesticide reduction efforts in their recharge area.
Owen says parents should “ask your school to take the OHA advice and work with them on discovering how the herbicides got into the drinking water. Then demand that your government pass strong chemical drift laws.”
He adds, “Right now, industry prevents that and school kids drink weed-killer cocktails. We need to ask: What’s more important, Monsanto profits or pesticide-free school drinking water?”
Owen questions whether the effects of being exposed to multiple pesticides, even in small doses, could adversely affect children, and he points to a report published by Beyond Pesticides that notes, “Synergistic effects between multiple pesticides and/or other chemicals represent one of the greatest gaps in EPA’s [Environmental Protection Agency] ability to protect the public from the adverse health effects associated with pesticide use and exposure.”
The Pitchfork Rebellion will caravan to and rally in front of several of the schools in the study Friday, Oct. 5. They will meet at noon in the Triangle Lake school parking lot, 20264 Blachly Grange Rd., and caravan to Applegate Elementary School in Crow.