In the 1990s, a regular person named Erin Brockovich exposed business practices that poisoned the drinking water of people in a small California town. Today regular Oregonians are working to expose flawed laws and business practices that have allowed helicopters spraying weed killers to harm people, drinking water, pets, and wildlife near clear cuts.
People near Gold Beach were harmed in October 2013 when a helicopter spraying pesticide doused many homesteads. The chemicals made people sick, killed wildlife, and worse. State agencies failed for months to share information about what happened. Film students at the University of Oregon made a great documentary about this travesty called Drift: A Community Seeking Justice.
In July 2014, residents of Douglas County suffered similar harm when toxic fumes from the aerial spray of a nearby clear cut invaded their property. People suffered headaches, their animals died, trees withered, and state agencies again failed to respond adequately.
Around 100,000 acres of Oregon forestland is aerially sprayed with pesticides each year. Forestland in Douglas, Coos, and Lane Counties are most intensely treated with these chemicals, but it happens in the Portland area, too.
In Clackamas County, pesticide has been applied to over 2,000 parcels since 2004. In Multnomah County, 217 parcels.
“People’s drinking water flows through these areas,” notes a homeowner who lives by a clear cut in Clackamas County slated for pesticide treatment. She worries about the pregnant woman down the road: “What is going to happen to that baby?”
Oregon’s inadequate pesticide controls are one reason our state has had its coastal nonpoint source pollution program disapproved by federal agencies, a decision expected to cost Oregon over $1 million in federal funding annually.
This is a bad situation, but together we can help fix it:
- Legislators are working to pass Senate Bill 613 which would improve advance notice, create buffers, and track the chemicals and quantities that are applied on forestlands.
- Oregonians and nonprofit groups like Beyond Toxics and Oregon Wild have spurred creation of many bills this legislative session to address the issue, as well as a bi-partisan work group to develop a legislative fix. That work group will begin meeting on Tuesday.
We need your help to pass meaningful reforms. Please contact our office at (503) 986-1438 or email email@example.com to find out how you can help.
Please also check out the great reporting Rob Davis of The Oregonian and Tony Schick of OPB have done on this issue.