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Pesticides In You And Your Salmon

When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. But what do you do when life hands you pesticides in your urine? You fight. And when the Environmental Protection Agency attempts to delay regulations protecting salmon from pesticides, you take that agency to court.

Residents of the Triangle Lake area aren’t mixing up urinade, but they’re not taking the poison lying down, either. At noon on Saturday, July 7, anti-pesticide group Pitchfork Rebellion and other Triangle Lake residents will speak out at “Occupy This! Rally for Pesticide Justice and Jobs!” The peaceful rally will call for the immediate ban of aerial spraying of pesticides near homes and schools, and it takes place at Wayne Morse Plaza at the old federal courthouse.

According to Standing Together to Outlaw Pesticides (STOP), aerial sprays don’t just mist buildings and people with pesticides, they also result in contamination of the watershed. Residents, in an informal group called the Siuslaw Watershed Guardians, paid for the analysis of four public streams near Triangle Lake and found atrazine, desethyl atrazine or hexazinone in all of them. The group has been fighting to stop the toxic sprays for years and the state only began to take the issue seriously after a researcher found the pesticides 2,4-D and atrazine in the urine of Triangle Lake residents. 

STOP is calling for a moratorium on forestry pesticides. “The health of humans, in particular children, should come before Big Timber profits,” says member Eron King, whose whole family tested positive for atrazine and 2,4-D in April 2011. “In light of the suspended state exposure investigation, it is important that the governor issues a moratorium on all forestry pesticides until the investigation gets full cooperation from ODA [Oregon Department of Agriculture], ODF [Oregon Department of Forestry] and the timber industry, and can conclude that the pesticides within my children, neighbors and I are not from forestries clear-cut sprays.”

Oregonians do have some hope for keeping pesticides out of our waterways when it comes to the neurotoxins that affect salmon. In June, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides won a court battle against the EPA in which the EPA sought to delay legal protections from pesticides that damage salmon habitat. A Seattle judge found industry and the government were not taking genuine steps to protect salmon jeopardized by pesticides, Amiee Code of NCAP says. Judge Thomas Zilly has lifted the stay, which now allows NCAP to move forward with a lawsuit it initiated in 2010. In the ruling, Code says, “the judge really comes out and points out EPA is being disingenuous.”

Code says the case has been a long time in the making. “We’ve been fighting for obvious, needed protections since 2000.” She says current regulations are insufficient and the courts have agreed with NCAP. 

“We won’t give up; the environment can no longer be put on the backburner while unsustainable and harmful business continues unabated,” Code says.