Protecting Rural Communities and Drinking Water from Logging Pesticides
A growing coalition of Oregon legislators, working on behalf of rural residents and public environmental health interests, are pursuing legislation in the 2015 session to increase public transparency and accountability around uses of aerial pesticide and herbicide spraying, and to better protect public and environmental health by establishing no-spray buffers around homes, schools and streams.
Oregon’s weak state laws pertaining to private industrial logging operations encourages the aerial application of toxic pesticides to suppress vine maple, alder, and other native plants. Promoting herbicide use on commercial tree farms by state regulations is called “Free to Grow.” Timber owners use herbicides to kill everything other than merchantable Douglas fir trees. However, the need for defoliation across thousands of acres of Oregon forests is questionable. Herbicide sprays are not used in federal forests. Nor are herbicides used by Oregon-based sustainable timber businesses.
The timber industry’s practice of using helicopters to deliver toxic pesticide poisons is generating growing concern and opposition from rural residents over chemical exposure. Aerial spraying can allow chemicals with known adverse health effects, such as glyphosate, 2,4-D (a chemical component of agent orange), and atrazine, to drift long distances. It can also result in chemical run-off that puts drinking water, salmon and wildlife at risk. Oregon currently has no buffers around homes or schools. This is a significant shift from previous regulations that were in place in the 1990’s when there was a 500 ft. buffer to protect human health. Oregon also has smaller buffers around streams than other Pacific Northwest states.
Oregon’s inadequate rules governing aerial pesticide spraying do not require any advance notification before spraying near homes and communities. Worse, the public—including Oregonians who have been exposed to potentially toxic chemicals through aerial spraying—are forbidden from accessing details on what chemicals were used. Finally, current rules fail to require the buffers around homes, schools, streams, and wetlands necessary to protect public and environmental health.
What does SB 613 Accomplish?
As currently proposed, legislation would:
1. Direct the State Board of Forestry to establish no-spray buffers around residential dwellings and schools, as well as enhanced buffers to protect drinking water systems and fish bearing streams.
2. Create an on-line advance notification system that would allow members of the public to receive notice about the date and time of a spray, and the herbicides and/or pesticides that will be used without a charge to the public.
3. Will require the same information prior to the use of fire as a site preparation or maintenance practice (slash burns).
4. Require the Oregon Department of Forestry to make public, via a web site, reports regarding what chemicals were used, in what quantity, where they were sprayed, and information on the weather conditions at the time of spraying within 48 hours after a spray operation.
5. Requires the retention of pesticide spray records for seven years.
6. Ensure the Oregon Health Authority is empowered to respond and investigate poisoning emergencies.
7. Provide resources to enable the Oregon Health Authority to develop a program to educate health care practitioners regarding how to diagnose and treat cases of pesticide poisoning.
Coalition of Support
Beyond Toxics, Oregon Wild and a larger coalition of over twenty groups are supporting this legislation.
Senator Michael Dembrow and Representative Ann Lininger are the primary champions of this legislation. Senators Floyd Prozanski, Sarah Gelser, Alan Bates are co-signers in the Senate. Representatives Phil Barnhart, Peter Buckley, Ken Helm and Paul Holvey are co-sponsors in the House.
Sign up to join us for the March 12th Lobby Day in Salem to register your support directly with state legislators!
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