By Justin Workman
For The Register-Guard
MARCH 27, 2017
Spring is upon us, inspiring images of flowers in colorful bloom. But for some in Oregon, it means the beginning of the spray season.
It’s a time when the big timber corporations such as Weyerhaeuser, Seneca, Roseburg and Giustina use helicopters to aerially spray cancerous concoctions of herbicides on their clearcuts. These timber companies are creating their own special spring shower that kills everything living except for newly replanted fir trees.
In 1961, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that the aerial application of pesticides was an “extra-hazardous activity.” The court stated that “strict liability should be attached to the activity.” The state of Oregon uses the word “pesticide” as an umbrella term to describe insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, rodenticides, etc.
The timber and pesticide companies had different plans, however, and in 1993 helped craft the Oregon Right to Farm and Forest Act (Oregon Revised Statute 30.930-30.947). This law shields the timber industry from litigation and transfers liability from spray operators to Oregon taxpayers.
The Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Investment Trust will be aerially spraying 24.3 acres near Deerhorn Road and the drinking water intake and canal for Eugene with atrazine, hexazinone, sulfometuron methyl, oxyfluorfen and penoxsulam, glyphosate, 2,4-D with ester, 2,4-D with acid, 2,4-D with amine, 2,4-D with choline, clopyralid, fluroxypyr, No Foam, Crosshair, Grounded, Epoleon N-100 and/or Epoleon N-7C. (See the Oregon Department of Forestry notification, 2017-771-01491.) The last two chemicals listed are odor maskers, which indicates that Weyerhaeuser thinks neighbors nearby will smell the drift.
For decades, the Eugene Water and Electric Board has been testing Eugene’s drinking water for contaminants such as herbicides. In many instances, the chemicals on the Weyerhaeuser spray list have already been detected in Eugene’s drinking water.
The utility’s own website says “EWEB needs to maintain good communication with the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Department of Transportation and Lane County Public Works, and encourage them to continue to manage vegetation without herbicides.” It seems the timber companies should go on that list. After all, EWEB’s top two herbicides of concern, Atrazine and 2,4-D, are in this upcoming spray.
2,4-D is half of what is known as Agent Orange, the defoliant used heavily in Vietnam. Atrazine is banned where it is produced (Switzerland), and throughout the rest of Europe. Ten years after the ban, Atrazine still shows up in European environmental tests. Atrazine has also been found in the finished drinking water of more than 100 U.S. cities.
Let’s not forget that all 21 residents of Triangle Lake, including my children, tested positive for both 2,4-D and Atrazine. Clear-cut forestry sprays were thought to be the source of the herbicides. The Highway 36 Human Health Exposure Investigation concluded that the herbicides found in our urine drifted on average 2.65 miles to enter our bodies.
EWEB also states that it wants “exceptional water quality,” as do most people in Eugene. So how many chemicals will it take before the city no longer has exceptional water?
The residents of Rockaway Beach know all too well about forestry herbicides in their city’s drinking water. After an aerial spray near Jetty Creek, the city’s source of water, five forestry herbicides were detected in the drinking water. Those residents can attest that it is a lot cheaper to prevent the contamination than to pay millions of dollars to upgrade the city’s water filtration system.
Lincoln County will be voting to ban the aerial application of pesticides in the May election.
At least two schools in Lane County have herbicides flowing from their water fountains. The children at Triangle Lake Charter School drink the herbicide Imazapyr, and the children at Applegate elementary drink seven different herbicides.
There is enough evidence and history right here in Lane County that suggests we should end the use of forestry herbicides all together. But if we must compromise with the timber barons, then let’s at least ban the aerial application of herbicides. They will then use their safer traditional method of backpack spraying. This will create jobs, tax revenue, and “exceptional water quality.”
A group in Lane County called the Freedom from Aerial Herbicides Alliance (info@FreedomFromAerialHerbicides.org) has crafted a county charter amendment that would ban the aerial application of herbicides and hopes to have it on the ballot this fall. Help keep these forestry pesticides out of Eugene’s water!
Justin Workman of Triangle Lake helped form the Freedom From Aerial Herbicides Alliance.