Triangle Lake Investigation Continues


Triangle Lake, named in the 1900’s after its unusual three-sided shape, is located 25 miles west of Junction City on Route 36. A popular place for family recreation, it has become the focus of a drawn-out investigation due to public health concerns. Even more, local residents claim the investigation is being thwarted by timber companies.

A popular place for family recreation, Triangle Lake has become the focus of a drawn-out investigation due to public health concerns.

The Oregon Health Authority reports that, dating back to the 1960’s, citizens who lived around the lake raised concerns about chemicals used in the aerial and manual application of herbicides on the coastal forest land. These concerns stemmed from a spike in the reported number of miscarriages and birth defects. In 1979, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the use of the herbicides 2,4,5-T and silvex. These herbicides were being used to control weeds and underbrush. The dioxin suspected of causing the miscarriages is TCDD, a contaminant of the chemical compound Agent Orange, used throughout the Viet Nam war.

The EPA ban was based in part upon the Triangle Lake area presenting the first tangible proof of the toxicity of the chemical to humans.  At that time, it was estimated that approximately 4 million Oregon residents were at risk from the exposure.

In the Spring of 2011, 34 residents from around the Triangle Lake area tested positive to having — among other chemicals —  2,4D in their urine. 2,4D, another weed control pesticide, has been debated as a hazard towards humans. This debate has occured to this day despite a link being found in a 1990 study of Nebraska farmers which found that exposure to 2,4D was linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The Oregon Health Authority and the state’s Pesticide Analytical Response Center began investigations as to how Triangle Lake residents were exposed to the pesticide. In August 2011, public health workers collected urine samples from a number of residents around the lake in order to form a baseline assessment of health prior to the “pre-spray” season of herbicides. This was followed in September 2011 with soil samples, drinking water tests, and vegetable examination.

On March 2012, the investigation was suddenly halted during the middle of the peak spraying season around Triangle Lake.  It was later revealed that the investigation team had made numerous errors in critically important investigations, jeopardizing the results.

It was also discovered that a number of Lane County timber companies had decided not use the suspect chemicals during the spraying season. By choosing not to spray, the timber companies decided to “opt out” of the investigation and, possibly, subsequent lawsuits.

Residents were enraged, accusing the forest landowners of sabotaging the test process. In a forum held on April 10, 2012, the Pesticide Analytical Response Center and two federal agencies advised residents that the spring sampling was halted and that a new base line sampling would begin in the final weekend of August 2012.

The Oregon Health Department reports that there have been no further advancement to the investigation. Residents continue to complain of health disorders.

Weyerhaeuser, one of several timber corporations operating in the area, had previously denied that it changed its 2011 Triangle Lake spraying strategy because of the investigation. Telephone inquiries to their Washington Head Office this week to inquire about the future spraying of chemicals at Triangle Lake were not returned.

The Oregon Health Department is continuing its investigations. It is requesting residents who have possession of environmental data such as air, water and soil analyses, to make contact with the OHA.

Groups call for buffer zones in pesticide use

Aerial spraying of pesticides, or “crop dusting,” is a practice dating back to 1906.

Several public advocacy groups held a rally today against pesticides at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza during the Saturday Market. Pitchfork Rebellion, an anti-pesticide group from the Triangle Lake area organized “Occupy This! Rally for Pesticide Justice and Jobs!” The event called for banning aerial spraying of pesticides near homes and schools, creating a buffer zone to protect people’s health.

The rally began with a performance by local reggae/jam band Sol Seed, followed by a spoken word protest performance calling for a “pure organic Oregon.”

Then “Day,” a resident of the Triangle Lake area, took to the stage. Day is one of several residents of Triangle Lake who has been documented to have the pesticides 2,4-D and atrazine in his urine. 2,4-D, or 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, is a major ingredient in Agent Orange, one of the chemicals used by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program during the Vietnam War. A professional analysis of four public streams near Day’s and other residents’ homes found these pesticides in all of the streams.

Several environmental groups held a rally today against pesticides at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza during the Saturday Market.

Day said,

“We’re just a bunch of hillbillies from Triangle Lake tired of getting hit by pesticides everyday.”

Studies by numerous organizations, from the EPA to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to public universities, have documented the effects of human consumption of pesticides. Pesticides can cause damage to the human nervous system, reproductive system and other organs, developmental and behavioral abnormalities, disruption of hormone function as well as immune dysfunction.

Day introduced Roy Key, a professional forester of over 40 years. Key said he was there to talk about the dangers of pesticide poisoning in Lane County.

“I’ve been in the forest business for 40 years. I’ve managed forests without herbicides or pesticides. You don’t need those substances to manage the forest.”

Key compared pesticide use to his experience in the Vietnam War.

“It’s just like Agent Orange all over again. But here in Lane County.”

Key called on attendees to tell Oregon governor John Kitzhaber to stop the use of pesticides in the state near homes and schools.

Day, a resident of Triangle Lake, has been documented to have the pesticides 2,4-D and atrazine in his urine. A professional analysis of four public streams near Day’s and other residents’ homes found these and other pesticides in all of the streams.

Oregon already has a buffer zone to protect waterways and salmon species. Streamside protection rules for non-federal forest land in Oregon were adopted in 1994. All private, state and local government forest landowners or operators conducting pesticide operations near streams, lakes or wetlands must comply with these rules. In November 2011, a federal judge upheld buffer zones for pesticide use near streams and rivers. Dow Chemical Company, a leader in specialty chemicals based in Michigan, filed a lawsuit seeking to undo the Oregon rules, saying that they were too restrictive. The restrictions ban the ground spraying of three agricultural insecticides within 500 feet of waterways with salmon. They also ban aerial spraying within 1000 feet of said waterways.

While Oregon has a buffer zone for pesticide use near water, it has not adopted a buffer zone near human activity. The Oregon Department of Forestry says,

“Currently, there are no regulations in Oregon requiring a buffer zone for aerial application of herbicides near specific structures or facilities, including schools.”

There are, nonetheless, safety requirements in how pesticides are used, both in residential and forested situations:

“While pesticide use in a residential setting must abide by pesticide label safety requirements, forestry applications must follow those requirements plus additional regulations spelled out in the Oregon Forest Practices Act.”

Pesticide companies, such as Dow Chemical, argue that their products abide by these safety requirements. Concerning 2,4-D, the substance found in Triangle Lake residents, Dow Chemical has said the following:

“2,4-D is available for use in U.S. crop production today because EPA has determined, after evaluating all human health and safety considerations – including the concerns expressed by activists – that current uses (including currently authorized uses on corn) pose ‘a reasonable certainty of no harm.’ This EPA conclusion was reached only after the Agency had considered all relevant data…This regulatory conclusion is supported by mainstream health and safety experts who have thoroughly evaluated the product.”

The application of pesticides has had a long and controversial history. Dr. Patricia Muir, Professor at Oregon State University’s Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, says that, following World War 2,

Ingrid Edstrom, nurse practitioner at Eugene’s Infrared Breast Thermography LLC, spoke of the link between pesticides and breast cancer. “Oregon has the second highest breast cancer rate per capita in the nation,” she added.

“Chemical pesticides have become the most important consciously-applied form of pest management.”

The Oregon Department of Forestry explains this popularity according to pesticides’ cost-effectiveness:

“Many landowners see herbicides as the most cost-effective means of achieving their reforestation goals following logging or fire, or for converting neglected brush land to forests.”

The first important pesticide was DDT (otherwise known as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane). Muir says,

“DDT was discovered in 1939 by a Swiss chemist Paul Muller. In its early days, it was hailed as a miracle…It was inexpensive and easy to apply. It was so effective at killing pests and thus boosting crop yields and was so inexpensive to make that its use quickly spread over the globe. In 1948, Muller was awarded the Nobel Prize for its discovery.”

As years went by, however, DDT was labeled both directly and indirectly toxic to many organisms. Most disturbingly, as Muir explains, DDT

“showed up in human breast milk at remarkably high concentrations — so high that the milk couldn’t legally be sold through interstate commerce if it were cow’s milk! [DDT] is the most widespread contaminant in human milk around the world.”

While DDT was banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1972, other pesticides are commonly used in Oregon. The last year in which Oregon has data compiled for pesticide use is 2008. That year it was reported that 280,001 pounds of pesticides (chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion) were used in the state.

A rally attendee protests 2,4-D, one of the pesticides found in streams near Triangle Lake.

The groups that rallied today are hoping to change how those hundreds of thousands of pounds of pesticides are administered. They asked all attendees to fill out postcards to Governor Kitzhaber to ask for expanding pesticide buffer zones to include not just fish, but people.

Christina Hubbard, the Project Director of Forest Web, also spoke at the rally. Forest Web is a grassroots conservation organization based in Cottage Grove. Hubbard said,

“Forest Web stands in solidarity with these groups. I’ve personally been working with Day since 2007. A lot of these pople have had major clinical studies done on their urine and it is documented that they have pesticide poisoning.”

Hubbard says this rally’s message is not particularly radical.

“Really what this is about is creating a reasonable buffer zone for aerial spraying. This is common sense, to protect homes and schools.”

For more information about Oregon’s use of pesticides in agriculture, go to the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s website at http://oregon.gov/ODA/PEST/. For more information about Oregon’s use of them in forestry, go to the Oregon Department of Forestry’s website at http://www.oregon.gov/ODF/privateforests/pesticides.shtml. Websites for the groups involved in the rally are: Pitchfork Rebellion, http://pitchforkrebellion.com/; STOP, http://stop-oregon.org/; Forest Web, http://www.forestweb-cg.org/.

Illegal Dumping: You Won’t Believe This!


Illegal Dumping: You Won’t Believe This!
by Rick Dancer


This story should make anyone who lives in Lane County a bit angry. I didn’t know how big the problem of illegal dumping really was until I recently produced this story for Lane County. Take a few minutes to watch this.

used with permission from Lane County.