Aerial spray bill to get legislative hearing


Spraying companies gear up to defend industry-backed bill; whistleblower releases videos showing several alleged improprieties.

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BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Spraying companies are gearing up to defend an industry-backed bill aiming to limit aerial timber spraying.

The Statesman Journal reports on how the Oregon Legislature arrived at this point:

More than a dozen bills to tighten rules around aerial pesticide spraying were introduced in January, following highly publicized reports of people and pets being sickened by accidental exposure. The bills called for notifying residents before spraying; turning over spray records to a state agency; and establishing buffers around residential areas and non-fish-bearing streams. All of the bills died in committee.

House Bill 3549, introduced last month, has none of the provisions pushed by environmental groups. Among its provisions:

  • Requiring the Oregon Department of Forestry to study whether existing buffers are sufficient and report back to the Legislature by September 2016.
  • Increasing training for aerial pesticide applicators and doubling the amount they can be fined for violations.
  • Requiring state agencies to work together to develop a standard response to pesticide complaints; and requiring the state Department of Agriculture to run a telephone pesticide-complaint hotline.

Meanwhile, a truck driver who worked with spray crews in Douglas County has released hours of video and hundreds of photos to The Oregonian to expose several alleged improprieties including indiscriminate spraying of workers.

From OregonLive.com:

Nothing is more worrisome than the number of times the helicopter sprays over workers. Depending on the chemicals used, workers aren’t allowed to enter spray sites for up to 48 hours. Directly spraying workers is illegal. It’s also illegal to allow chemicals to drift onto workers. One of the weed killers, Velossa, which is identified in the videos, can cause irreversible eye damage. Another, 2,4-D, causes skin irritation. Breathing even its vapors can cause dizziness.

If such chemicals land on workers’ clothes, they’re supposed to take them off and wash their skin for 15 minutes. Ivy said he was never told that. He wore the same clothes for three days before realizing that might be the reason his skin felt itchy. Industry representatives insist that timber companies and their contractors follow the rules. They say they adhere to federally approved instructions for each chemical.

The whistleblower reportedly repeatedly coughed blood during interviews.

 




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