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Pesticide Spray Season Begins

It’s almost fall, blackberries are ripening, and it’s harvest season. But for the rural communities around Triangle Lake, that also means it’s pesticide spray season. Eron King, a mother and farmer, says while an Oregon Health Authority (OHA) investigation into the toxic sprays by the timber industry appears to be on hold, the fight against them sprays is not. 

King’s two children were among the 44 Triangle Lake-area dwellers whose urine tested positive for atrazine and 2,4-D in the spring of 2011. King, who is president of the board of STOP (Standing Together to Outlaw Pesticides), says the state’s investigation into the possible harms the aerial sprays and their pesticide drifts are causing local residents is on hold due to a lack of cooperation by the timber industry.

The OHA investigation’s sampling was suspended in the spring when it became clear that the timber industry was only going to spray the only two chemicals that can be tested for — 2,4-D and atrazine — in very remote locations, which have very few residents, according to the OHA website. 

King points to documents that show demands made by Oregonians for Food and Shelter and the Oregon Forest Industries Council in regard to the investigation. The demands included having an Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) representative on site, security to keep the public away, the right of landowners to decline participation and preventing the release of documents showing what was actually sprayed until after sampling and test results are complete. “Records will only be then be released to agency personnel if necessary,” the pro-pesticide use groups write. Koch Industries, Inc., gave $5,000 to the Oregon Forest Industries Council PAC in April of 2012, according to filings on the Oregon secretary of state website.

The Oregon Health Authority and ODF responded to the demands in a Jan. 20, 2012, memo, which said, in part, “Because of statutory requirements, the Department of Forestry (ODF) cannot waive the notification requirement for any operation, and will send the notification information to persons who have requested that information in writing (subscribers).”

King says one of the things she and other groups are asking for from the ODF is a fair spray notification system. Right now, people have to pay for the spray notices and they are not available online. Also, King says, the notices give warning that a spray will take place in the next six to 12 months, a very long window, she points out. 

King says the spray notifications should be free, available online, have a one- to two-month window and be more specific about which chemicals will be sprayed, rather than the current practice of providing a long list of what might be sprayed. She also says residents should have an option to be given a 24-hour notice of an impending spray.

EW runs spray notices most weeks, courtesy of Forestland Dwellers, which subscribes to, collates and pays for the notices before sending them to EW

While private timber companies such as Weyerhaeuser and Seneca are doing fewer aerial sprays in the area, King says backpack spraying and roadside sprays of pesticides from trucks continue, and those methods are problematic as well. “It’s still pesticides being released into the air and the environment,” she says. She says she believes a backpack spray that took place behind her house in August has led to a lingering cough she and her family members still have in September. Longtime anti-pesticide activist Day Owen of the Pitchfork Rebellion was recently diagnosed with skin cancer, which he believes is connected to an aerial pesticide spray he experienced. 

King says, “I asked the investigation if they can come and take urine samples in the area again (post-spray samples) because they have started spraying again, even backpack spray. At least we could eliminate that as a cause of our exposure.” But she says the investigation doesn’t have the funding available now. 

Jonathan Modie, a spokesman with the Oregon Public Health Division, says there might be an update on the investigation this week. 

King says fights like this are hard because “they take so long and people want to get back to their lives,” but she says she thinks public and media pressure that are going to change things. The Triangle Lake spray story has gotten national media coverage.

For more on the OHA investigation go to wkly.ws/18i and for more on STOP got to http://stop-oregon.org