Herbicide opponents say they were sprayed

Posted 8/21/19

A week after protestors demanded Jefferson County take a stand against herbicide spraying on Pope Resources lands, several protesters at a clearcut above Discovery Bay say they were sprayed by a helicopter herbicide spray rig.

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Herbicide opponents say they were sprayed

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A week after protestors demanded Jefferson County take a stand against herbicide spraying on Pope Resources lands, several protesters at a clearcut above Discovery Bay say they were sprayed by a helicopter herbicide spray rig.

Pope Resources Vice President Adrian Miller said the company’s herbicide spray contractor was working at that location Aug. 19 and 20 and that anyone who believes they were hit by spray should report it to the Washington Department of Agriculture drift hotline.

He said Department of Agriculture and Department of Natural Resources inspectors have been on site this week to ensure the spraying has been done according to law. He said the spray hotline staff will conduct an investigation and that he has not been informed of any spraying of protesters by the helicopter crew.

Video posted by David Baker, a retired tech worker from Chimacum, shows spray being laid down on Pope land near the spot where he and other protesters had picketed all day Aug. 19.

Pope, which owns and manages about 69,000 acres of forestland in Jefferson, Kitsap, and Mason counties, sprays glyphosate - the active ingredient in the herbicide commonly known as Roundup - on clear cuts to suppress weeds and unwanted brush growth.

In a phone interview Aug. 20, Baker said he walked up Pope Resources’ access road off state Route 20 into the section of a Pope clearcut just west over the ridge from Moon and City Lakes.

He said the first time the helicopter cleared the ridge and kept spraying, a nearby Pope official suggested he climb into their truck for a ride out.

He declined, kept filming and then headed down the access road. “When I got back down to the road, there’s the final slope you see from the road and they started spraying that, Baker said. “They came right down to where we were.”

Baker said there were several women protesters still there as the wind and gravity swept the spray down onto state Route 20. “They just scrambled, blew out of there pretty quick as soon as they were spraying down the front side of the face.”

He loaded protest signs into his van when the helicopter came even closer. Some of that footage he has uploaded to YouTube, where members of the Jefferson County Environmental Coalition have been circulating it to state and local officials.

“The wind was blowing it down that face,” Baker said.

Lissy Andrews, who operates Starrett House, a Victorian Inn in Port Townsend, said she went to the protest with a Tyvek hazmat suit and respirator, but did not expect to get hit.

“Our understanding was that it’s illegal to spray when there’s people on-site and they wouldn’t spray if we were there.”

But the helicopter dropped its spray in a way that it drifted down the clearcut and onto the small group of protesters gathered there. “The Pope representatives were right at the gate and saw us,” Andrews said. “They were aware that we were there.”

“That was the point I said, ‘This little mask and this little suit are not going to protect me.’”

Meanwhile, she noticed, Pope’s on-site representatives were sitting in their trucks with the windows open. “We’re in suits and we’re running because we don’t want to be overly exposed and they’re just sitting there chatting.”

She said one of the leaders of the daylong occupation read them the riot act.

“She was enraged, charged up the hill and started shouting obscenities at the Pope guy.”

Baker said he plans to file a criminal complaint against Pope Resources. Andrews said her hazmat suit and respirator are rolled up and sealed in a ziplock bag and will be sent to a lab for testing.

Andrews said she took two showers, washed her hair three times and then went straight to City Hall, where spray opponents demanded the City Council take action to stop spraying.

Andrews said Rachel Lusk, a local hospice nurse, was driving past during the spraying and immediately stopped to take cotton swab samples of the material on her car.

Baker said he stood in the spray to protest something he says will ruin the region’s ecosystem. “It’s incomprehensible that that’s happening in our water supplies. We’re destroying the water.”

Pope Resources announced it would be aerially spraying sections of its land holdings and released 16 maps that showed areas to be sprayed in Jefferson County, including clear cuts near Tarboo Lake, Anderson Lake, Eaglemount neighborhoods and others.

The maps indicate areas labeled “Helicopter Site Preparation Units.” Here, sites will be sprayed with a combination of imazapyr (1/2 to 1 quart per acre), glyphosate (1 to 3 quarts per acre), sulfometuron methyl and metsulfuron-methyl (2 to 5 ounces per acre) and vegetable oil (½ to 1 quart per acre).

Kitsap County opponents have stalled spraying there. Pope Resources announced Aug. 10 it would postpone herbicide application in Kitsap County south of Hansville after vocal pushback there.

“We heard loud and clear the community’s concerns about our proposed application,” Adrian Miller, director of administration and corporate affairs said of the Kitsap County decision. “We thought it would be best to take a pause and have a thoughtful and direct conversation with our neighbors before any potential application.”

Jefferson County residents are getting organized in hopes of a similar stall, occupying the Pope spray site, testifying to the Board of County Commissioners and showing up at City Council meetings to protest.

Even though there is no resolution against spraying in the county, commissioners said they are consulting with the Marine Resources Committee, the Port Townsend City Council, and the Department of Natural Resources about spray regulations.

But for residents who are scared of glyphosate, which Washington State University researchers recently found increases the chances of health problems like birth abnormalities and prostate, kidney and ovarian diseases, those answers haven’t been enough.

Baker said he plans to follow through with legal action if he has no other option.

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