It’s Not OK –
On the morning of May 17th four of us who were working in our Timber forests were apparently exposed to drift from an herbicide spray operation. We were each working in different parts of the forest and independently sensed the chemical – either through smelling and/or tasting. We soon became aware that we could hear a helicopter and confirmed that is was spraying herbicide on a recent clear cut a little over half a mile to the north. The land is owned by Stimson Lumber Company and Wilbur-Ellis was the contractor doing the spraying. Given that a significant north wind was blowing from the helicopter to us, it appears that we were exposed to drift.
Though we expect to learn more in the coming weeks and months, here is what we know:
1. Stimson, Oregon Department of Forest and Department of Agriculture staff have been responsive and communicative; for that we are appreciative.
2. We’re fortunate to live in a country and state which have laws related to herbicide spraying and systems for responding when there are problems.
3. Though we know that we were exposed, we do not yet fully know what chemicals were used and what the consequences might be, to us and the forest.
4. Oregon Department of Agriculture staff have started an investigation, collected vegetation samples and submitted them for analysis. Results are expected in about a week.
5. We and ODA do not fully know all of the chemicals that were sprayed. They included Sulflometuron, Clopyralid, and In-Place. We have requested information on the ingredients in In-Place from Wilbur-Ellis but they have not yet responded.
6. We have requested complete information from Wilbur-Ellis but they have not yet responded.
7. The ODA’s investigation could take as little as a few months or as long as a year.
8. We have a right not to be exposed to chemical spray drifting into our forest.
9. We have a right to not have either guests we invite to the forest or the forest itself exposed to chemical drift. (note – a week prior to the incident we hosted 40 second grade scientists in the forest and this weekend we’ll welcome 250 guests for a family wedding, so risks to guests are on our mind).
10. Government has a responsibility to acknowledge and protect these rights.
11. It doesn’t make sense to draw any conclusions until we learn from the results of the investigation.
What happened is not OK with us. In the coming weeks and months we will learn whether it is OK with the State of Oregon, Stimson Lumber Co., and Wilbur-Ellis.
Postscript – Oregon Public Broadcasting has provided the following coverage: http://www.opb.org/news/article/oregon-timber-herbicide-exposure-aerial-spraying/