It’s grievous enough that you have a spray drift incident on your property, or worse yet, on yourself. But then, like Betty Gahm found out, even though you may be personally sprayed, the Department of Agriculture can find no spray drift violation.
What can a victim do (“complainant” to the Department of Agriculture), if he or she feels the enforcement agency’s “no violation” to the sprayer is incorrect? When I asked this question recently of Warren Goetsch, Illinois Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs, Bureau Chief, here was his answer:
“As far as you disagreeing with the Department’s finding under the Illinois Administrative Procedures Act, there is no recourse that I am aware of.” Mr. Goetsch added, although he was not an attorney and wasn’t giving legal advice, “You could file a civil action suit and pursue it on your own.”
Then Mr. Goetsch quickly added, “Oh, you can bring additional evidence to us…”
Mr. Goetsch must have been reading my mind, as I was just going to bring up the Randy Hoovey case (see Part IV: The Wait). If you’ll remember, Randy had two spray drift incidents in 2012 one month apart each spraying glyphosate (RoundUp). When the second sprayer - the farmer - was issued a violation from the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the farmer challenged it on the basis that Randy’s property had been sprayed about a month earlier with the same chemical. Therefore, to the farmer’s way of thinking, he had not over sprayed onto Randy’s property.
Hmmm, I wonder why this farmer came to that conclusion. Just because a different sprayer over-sprayed on a neighboring property before you did, doesn’t mean that your over-spray doesn’t count. But it must count, for the Department of Agriculture agreed with the farmer and rescinded the violation. The State rescinded the violation even though the newest samples taken by the State after the farmer sprayed showed Glyphosate on Randy’s property. (Remember…Monsanto says RoundUp dissipates extremely quickly.)
On the other side of this sprayer/complainant equation, I was not as fortunate with the State. When an inspector came to view my land after a spray drift incident in the mid-2000’s, he repeatedly told me that I had pesticide damage on my pear trees, which I could easily see. However, when the report came back, it said “No violation.” There was no evidence of pesticide damage on my trees. (I was not savvy enough at that time to insist the inspector take samples from my trees and soil.)
When I attempted to call the inspector, I was not permitted to talk with him. When I called the State to see what recourse I had to contest this, I was told I had no recourse at all with the State. (Had I only been a conventional, spraying farmer making that call!)
I have seen too many times where a victim becomes discouraged from making further complaints to the State when spray drift happens again. And some victims have had their properties spray drifted every year. The next time it happens, they don’t complain because “what good will it do?” as so many victims have told me.
Or, as a lady from Gibbonsburg, Ohio put it recently when she wanted to tell me of another spray drift incident (going on since 1986), “We have to deal with the Department of Agriculture here … the fox guarding the hen house.”
Just remember, if this happens to you, please get in touch with the Farm-To-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (see Part IV: The Wait). If you feel you need to, you can still pursue legal action and/or a settlement with the sprayer’s insurance company, even with a “no violation” from the State enforcement agency.
But not every case ends with a “no violation.” There are violations given by the enforcement agency and the victim can breathe a sigh of relief (no pun intended). The victim may think that is the end of over spray on his or her property because it would seem that the sprayer would not risk receiving another violation. That is, unless the farmer gets another company to spray (and drift) the next year, or a chemical spraying company uses a different person to apply the spray. As the law now stands in Illinois and many other states, ONLY the pilot or person spraying from a ground rig will receive the violation. Not the owner of the farm, not the actual company that hires the sprayer…just the actual sprayer. And this leads to farmers/owners/spray companies going on with “business as usual” even if it means you are going to get spray drifted again.
Even when there IS a violation given, others - like Mr. Smith of “The Great Grove Creek Crayfish Kill,” feel a violation isn’t strong enough. You’ve already heard from Mr. Smith in Part III: The Inspection. Let me finish my blog today quoting excerpts from Mr. Smith’s saga. (We will hear more from Mr. Smith next time when we discuss, “Part VI: How to Obtain Your Complete Case through the Freedom of Information Act.”
So I settle in a waitin’ ta see what kinda action the IL. Dept. of Ag was gonna take in this open and shut case of, what should be highly criminalized, eco degradation…that chemical trespass into my space.
So with all that spraying activity, and after this failed attempt ta find my favorite bait, I set ta thinkin’ about other streams in the area. I’d like ta say that I changed streams and came up with plenty of bait, but I can’t. I crisscrossed the area fer five er six miles from here, me stopping at creek crossings, checkin’ under bridges and in first rock/riffle area…and...and you talk about disheartened, those son’s-of-bitchin’ aircrafts had done an amazing thorough job. I couldn’t help but feel eco-raped, and on a large scale.
So I wasn’t just layin’ back in the woods here, doin’ nothin’, just waitin’ fer the wheels of Department of Ag ta churn out its conclusive action in this case. No. I already knew, had been numerous times informed, how this thing most likely would go. And that’s just the way it did.
“Ha! A slap on the wrist!” Not my reaction but from those few I’ve shown this gem to. And it is a gem, too. I’m going to embrace and treasure it.
So the investigator did ascertain that a violation had indeed occurred. I made a mental note that I need to get my hands on this investigative report, knowin’ full well what a hassle it’ll be to go through “Freedom of Information” procedures. But I guess I’ll do it.
And I guess this letter places the blame for the eco destruction that happened here directly on a Mr. Stan Boling of Woodley Aerial Spray, Inc. All this stuff will be good info to hand over to my pro-bono legal team…just as soon as I get that little detail pulled together. I made a mental note ta go first and talk ta this guy, see if he’ll cooperate with me and give me information, like, just how much of this crap got dumped on this part of Ogle County durin’ that week-long blitz, so I don’t have to subpoena his records. Which I will do if I have ta.
And I guess I know where to vent my anger with respect ta this slap on the wrist. Certainly I’ll attempt conversation with Mr. Warren A. Goestsch, IL. Dept. of Ag Bureau chief, with respect ta this incident.
Boy! The questions that come ta mind with this dude. Like, fer starters, how many punches as opposed ta slaps does his agency merit out? Does anybody do serious jail time for doing serious eco damage? Do they have any sort of a baseline with respect to eco damage? Do they even take eco damage seriously? Like is this IL. Dept of Ag agency really lookin’ out fer the public’s interests, er is it just a toothless and tame pet of the Agro Chemical Industry?
And too, I’ve got great desire ta find out how this responsibility wasn’t in the hands of the E.P.A., how it got hijacked by the Department of Agriculture, which I’m sure is heavily influenced by the Agro Chemical Industry. The more I think about this stuff, what’s goin’ on all around us and all the time with almost no one completely aware of it er in control, I guess the more upset I get, the more goaded inta action I’m gettin’.
Which agency? I find myself questioning, Dept of Ag or E.P.A. has the say-so as to whether a chemical like this Tombstone is safe for usage and under what conditions? Under what circumstances is aerial sprayin’ safe at all? Damn…look at all the warnings of the products own promotional literature. Considering the impossibility to calculate all the movements, in some cases like micro movements of air currents below an aircraft that’s creating major turbulence either behind er below it…how do you keep sh_ _ like this Tombstone in place?
As I discover more, I promise ta keep ya informed.
We’ll learn more about The Great Grove Creek Crayfish Kill (www.ecovig.blogspot.com) and how to order your complete pesticide complaint case from your state enforcement agency in my next blog.
If you have any questions or comments, I look forward to hearing from you any time. I am happy to report that more people are calling me from outside of Illinois, which really helps me to learn about the kind of practices in other states. I do my best to help each person who calls. There is much that can be done. More people telling their stories help immensely. You can reach me at 815-988-2628 or at www.spraydriftillinois.com.
Jane Heim, in 2011, co-founded Spray Drift Education Network (SDEN), a grass roots organization dedicated to helping Illinois citizens report and prevent pesticide drift. She presently lives near Paw Paw, Illinois on 19 organic acres which she is transitioning to a Permaculture Restoration Farm. See her website at: www.restorethatfarm.com