Triangle Lake Pesticide Exposure – Chemical 2,4-D Trespass case needs Data, not Hype – Jerry Marguth – Resident

GUEST VIEWPOINT: Chemical trespass case needs data, not hype


Published: Sunday, Jan 1, 2012 05:00AM

In reviewing Lisa Arkin’s opinion piece in the Dec. 22 Register-Guard, I noticed that she left out a few details concerning the ongoing Triangle Lake investigation of chemical trespass. Those details would include the facts and context of the alleged trespass and investigation.

As a farmer in northern Lane County for more than three decades, I am very familiar with the Triangle Lake region and the current investigation of chemical trespass. I am also familiar with the chemical materials in question and have, in fact, used both materials safely and efficiently on my farm, as have many homeowners in urban settings.

Arkin asks in her opening question, “If our government knew of a health risk to humans, would we expect them to take action to protect us?” And the answer to that question is yes, a multiagency state and federal task force has been created and charged with determining whether the allegations have any merit through fairly comprehensive testing and bio-monitoring within prescribed scientific protocols.

In other words, a process is currently in play with a design goal of getting us as close to the truth about the alleged trespass as we can reasonably hope to achieve.

In her effort to personalize the perceived harm to a child who may have tested positive for the chemistry in question, Arkin also ignores the toxicology of the materials and the our current ability to test for chemicals at an extremely low level. Most people inherently know that all chemicals are toxic at some level, and with knowledge of those toxic levels we are able to avoid harm. We therefore avoid overindulgence of things such as table salt and caffeine, which have toxic effects at fairly low levels.

Arkin also fails to mention the thousands of other chemical compounds that we could test for and find in that child’s urine, because of our ever-more-sophisticated ability to test for compounds at the level of parts per million, parts per billion and even parts per trillion. A large number of those compounds would have a much higher toxicity than the herbicides in question. It has been said that because we have become so adept at finding things at very low levels that there is no longer such a thing as “zero.”

In her effort to build an association between military use of “Agent Orange” and aerial treatment of forests, Arkin demonstrates either extreme ignorance or conscious duplicity. There is no basis for comparison of aerial defoliation efforts by the U.S. Department of Defense in Vietnam and aerial application of weed control herbicides in the current environment.

The “thousands of acres” treated on an annual basis by foresters represent only a small fraction of the total timber lands. The materials used for weed control are expensive enough that precision placement is critical to avoid any waste. The equipment used for application represents the most current technologies for accuracy that are available. In short, the timber companies want the most efficient use of the materials that they can achieve.

Arkin asserts that the timber companies did not spray this last fall to avoid “a difficult public relations problem,” when in fact the historical record shows that they do not spray those materials in the fall, but rather in the spring when they are most effective. As a farmer, I fully appreciate the simple fact that herbicides have an optimal application timing, and again, no one can afford to waste their time or money.

Another omission of Arkin’s is the fact that virtually all of the timber companies in this region self-impose spray buffers around the perimeter of their forest lands to help guarantee no spray drift leaves their property.

As an industry they have sought to create statutes or administrative rules to codify spray buffers. And generally speaking, the forest industries have been forthright and open to discussion regarding any aspect of their cultural management of forest lands.

The natural resource community in general is open to dialogue about any perceived problem, simply because we all live on the lands in question and have the most basic vested interest in the health of those lands.

In conclusion, it seems to me that the best course of action is to allow the investigation to proceed and then to fully understand what the data tells us. I have no doubt that good science will answer most of these questions, not the emotionally charged hyperbole that Arkin is trying to sell.

Jerry Marguth, a retired captain in the Navy Reserve, has managed his family’s Nixon Farms Inc. near Junction City for three decades.



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  1. 1. Outsider
    01/01/2012 03:09AM

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    A fairly rational analysis. Unfortunately, the true believers will not be swayed by any rational argument because their fear is fear of the unknown and unknowable. Just like with radiation. Chemicals are scary because at low level you can't see them or taste them and you don't know when they are around. Some find this scary and they will not feel better until any bad chemicals on their radar screen are 100 percent banned.


  2. 2. Beyond Toxics
    01/01/2012 02:30PM

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    Beyond Toxics wishes to point out that Mr. Marguth is a grass seed and wheat farmer, so why he is writing about chemical trespass in forestry is unknown. (Maybe he is unhappy that we played an important role in banning grass seed field burning in the Willamette Valley?)

    Beyond Toxics stands by the information in our guest viewpoint written by Executive Director Lisa Arkin, published in the Register Guard on Thursday, Dec. 22, as accurate.

    1.True: Parents have received letters from the multiagency state and federal task force telling them that their children have 2,4D in their bodies. This task force has been assembled to undertake an investigation of chronic exposures to forestry herbicides for residents of the Triangle Lake area. The exposures were originally revealed by biological testing carried out by Dr. Dana Barr, in 2011. Dr. Barr, PhD, is a Research Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Emory University and has a 22-year tenure at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One purpose of the current Oregon investigation is to find out how that exposure is occurring. The parents who received the news that their children have herbicides in their bodies are truly concerned for the health of their children.

    2.True: The Oregon Health Authority and the US Center for Disease Control are not able to tell these parents that their child's chronic exposures to herbicides are safe. In fact, no scientist knows what level is safe. What we do know, based on the history of toxicology, is that safety levels for toxic chemicals often become more restrictive. Sometimes pesticides such as Agent Orange, DDT, and lead arsenate are banned or their use has been severely restricted as we eventually learn more about their toxicological effects.

    3.True: Marguth says that timber companies “have sought to create statutes or administrative rules to codify spray buffers.” Yes, truly, industry has controlled the process of establishing rules about forestry practices; they made sure that there are few restrictions and that the public can not interfere! There are NO buffers to protect homes and schools. The timber industry also successfully fought buffers for salmon habitat streams, and if buffers exist, they are only a few dozen yards wide – which does little to prevent pesticide run-off and drift.

    4.True: The industry controls the rule making, and the public is powerless. We have testified at public hearing after hearing, enough to know that public concerns are ignored. Industry groups exert extraordinary influence within the environmental regulatory and policy framework. Just read the editorial “The Timber Racket” published in today’s Register Guard, in which a retired federal prosecutor reveals the depth of industry influence on the regulatory system.

    Our disclosure of the fact that a state and federal task force found pesticides in the urine of local residents, including young children, has struck a nerve in the timber-agriculture industry. They have a public relations problem, and that is why they are working hard to convince the public that pesticide poisoning is no different than putting a little too much salt on your food. We stand by our ethical position that no child should have pesticides in his/her body, and that families have the right to demand safety from chemical trespass. By trying to cover up the problem of pesticide drift, timber companies hope to deflect attention away from mounting legal challenges to hold pesticide companies accountable for harm, mounting public support for the precautionary principle and more jurisdictions all over the world taking steps to ban pesticides.



  3. 3. Mark
    01/01/2012 03:14PM

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    We have a right not to have helicopters spray cancer causing poisons directly upwind of us. This is a human rights issue as much as a toxicology issue.

    2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid causes major damage to the body, not only cancer and birth defects but it also disrupts the hormonal systems.

    Technically, 2,4-D and related compounds are herbicides, not "pesticides," but a more accurate term is "biocides" — chemicals designed to destroy life. Some types of plants are killed, others are not, but they are engineered to be destructive. Fortunately, human beings are not immediately killed by most exposures, but the long term, chronic exposures that cause delayed impacts are easy for apologists to ignore, since the years between exposure and cancer (or other diseases) are difficult to prove in our 18th century legal system.

    If timber companies practiced selective forestry instead of clearcutting, they would not be converting forests into blackberry thickets and Scotch broom (the reason they spray herbicides).

    Oregon's forests did not need toxic herbicides to grow what was one of the greatest forests known to have existed on Earth. Timber companies do not need to spray Agent Orange ingredient 2,4-D to have Douglas Fir trees.



  4. 4. Marguth's neighbor
    01/01/2012 09:25PM

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    One boldface lie in Marguth's article is his assertion that industry has put in place statutes to codify buffers: the truth is that they always oppose any attempt to create buffers.

    Yes, Marguth has used atrazine and 2,4-D, and many of us who live near his fields have been poisoned by the drift and volatization.

    Personally, I would like to see Marguth behind bars for poisoning children.

    Much of his reasoning is blury; perhaps that can be explained by the study that proved that farmers who use pesticide suffer decreased intelligence according to tests.

    Question for my neighbor: Mr Marguth: Do you expect that the timber industry will spray atrazine and 2,4-D aerially, as you admit they normally do in the Spring, this coming spring while the state is doing their testing?

    I had not got involved in this issue until now; but seeing my poisonous neighbor in print made me want to vomit, just like his toxic sprays over the years has done.



  5. 5. Chris Jarmer
    01/03/2012 01:49PM

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    One would hope that a discerning reader would simply skip the rantings of "Beyond Toxics", "Mark" and "Marguth's neighbor" for the simple fact that they are anonymous. If you have something to say, put your name on it.

    If you were unfortunate enough to slog through their meaningless drivel, I have good news for you–you can ignore them all because collectively they don't have a single rational argument.

    I have had the priviledge of knowing Jerry for some time. And I am 100% behind him—if there is a problem, let's get it solved. If there isn't, and I am sure there is not because of the multitude of studies done elsewhere, its time for some people to sit down and shut up so society can move on and solve some of our real problems.


  6. 6. Professional Forester
    01/03/2012 02:21PM

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    I am growing tired of seeing in print repeated allegations made out as fact that pesticide trespass and poisoning has taken place in the Triangle Lake area. This has not been proven through several Oregon Department of Agriculture pesticide trespass investigations up through 2010. The current allegations posed by some residents of the Triangle Lake area, through testing supposedly done by Dr. Barr, were never verified or proven through public release. A spokesperson said the group would release all of the information related to the testing done early in 2011, then reneged when pressed by concerned citizens who live and work in the area. Independent parties, including the state agencies involved in the current investigation, have not seen any proof of pesticide trespass. The ongoing discussion about allegations are simply that, discussions about allegations that have not been proven. No-one deserves to be trespassed upon. But, we need to have the real facts available for proper discussions about how private property can be utilized for publicly consumed products.


  7. 7. Regulatory Scientist
    01/03/2012 03:46PM

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    Mr. Marguth lays out solid facts concerning the exposure investigation and the background information. One area that bears repeating is the fact that US EPA conducts a thorough re-evaluation of all registered pesticides on a 15 year schedule as directed by the Food Quality Protection Act. The Agency considers ALL available evidence, (including the hypotheticals put forth by these organizations) in determining that continued use poses a reasonable certainty of no harm.

    The State Department of Agriculture has done a commendable job of investigating these allegations of harm over the past dozen years. There has been no credible evidence found.

    The ability of man to develop instruments capable of detecting constituents in a matrix at parts per billion or lower is amazing. It also provides great fodder for fear-mongering. There are many chemicals that may be found in the body, including cholesterol, pharmaceuticals and personal care products. We won't even start on the naturally ocurring compounds that may be routinely ingested in a cup of coffee, for example. It is necessary to put the detection into context. As the ATSDR reported, these detections are below the level that would be expected to cause adverse health effects.

    I for one am pleased that the US EPA does such a thorough job of evaluating these compounds to protect human health and the environment!


  8. 8. Marguth's neighbor
    01/04/2012 12:46AM

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    Why didn't nozzle-head Marguth mention in his bio tag of article that he is a past chairman of the pesticide industry group Oregonians for Food and Shelter and is currently on their Board of Directors? Notice his name on the following list of the current Board of OFS:

    Oregonians for Food and Shelter, Inc. 2011 Board of Directors

    Mark Dunn, 2011 Vice Chairman

    Barry Bushue

    Jean Godfrey

    Mike Iverson

    Rick Jacobson

    Jerry Marguth, Past Chairman

    Carol Russell

    Craig Smith

    Currently vacantJ.R. Simplot Company

    Oregon Farm Bureau Federation

    Columbia Gorge Fruit Growers

    Oregon Fresh Market Growers Association

    NORPAC Foods, Inc.

    Oregon Seed Council

    Russell Cranberry Company

    Northwest Food Processors Association

    Oregon Association of Nurseries

    Oregon Wheat Growers League


    Eric Geyer, 2011 Vice Chairman

    Jerry Anderson

    Ron Borisch

    Andy Bryant

    Mike Fahey

    Jake Gibbs

    David Hampton

    Chris Jarmer

    Greg MillerRoseburg Forest Products

    Forest Capital Partners, LLC

    Longview Timber Corp.

    Yamhill Environmental Services

    Columbia Helicopters, Inc.

    Lone Rock Timber Management Company

    Hampton Affiliates

    Oregon Forest Industries Council

    Weyerhaeuser Company


    Bruce Alber, 2011 Chairman

    Curt Dannen

    Mike Diamond

    Debbie Ego

    Danelle Farmer

    Cindy Finlayson

    Jim Fitzgerald

    Jerry Harchenko

    Doug Hoffman

    Brendan McCarthy

    Kent Pittard

    Bryan Stuart

    Andrea Vogt

    Anita WinklerWilbur-Ellis Company

    Crop Production Services, Inc.

    Monsanto Company

    Rasmussen Spray Service

    Syngenta Crop Protection

    Umatilla Electric Cooperative, Inc.

    Far West AgriBusiness Association

    Pacific NW Aerial Applicators Alliance

    WILCO – Winfield, LLC

    Portland General Electric


    Western Regional Alliance


    Oregon Water Resources Congress


  9. 9. Who represents Who?
    01/04/2012 10:18AM

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    #8 Looks like a pretty good represention of all the local farmers and foresters that provide food and shelter for all of us on that list. Maybe someone should list all of the people who donate time to Beyond Toxics and who they work for. Wow, seven Attorney's on that list! I didn't see one attorney on the OFS list….

    Shawn Donnille, Beyond Toxics President and co-owner of Mountain Rose Herbs


    B. Kneeland, J.D., Beyond Toxics Vice President solo practice attorney focusing on environmental, land use, and civil commitment law is a member of Oregon and California (inactive) bars, a Eugene Planning Commissioner

    Melanie Bigalke, Beyond Toxics Secretary Outreach Coordinator for Café Mam, a local importer of organic, fair-trade, shade-grown coffee.

    Tom Dimitre, J.D. a recent graduate from Willamette University College of Law, practice focuses on civil rights, discrimination, employment and environmental law.

    Carla Hervert, RN, MS Registered nurse and exercise physiologist.

    Michelle Holman is a sculptor and organic gardener.

    Dr. Tom Kerns is a semi-retired Philosophy professor at Seattle Community College who teaches online courses, including Intro to Bioethics and Environment and Human Rights.

    Roberta (Bobbi) Lindberg, JD, MS is a retired water quality specialist who maintains her interest in the water quality of Oregon’s coastal basins. Her work for the state DEQ began in 1993.


    Bob Amundson, Ph.D., (Portland)

    Richard Barnhart, M.D. (Coburg)

    Christine Cameron, Graphic Design, owner of Cameron & Company (Eugene)

    Lynn Fessenden, Ph.D. (Junction City)

    David Funk, co-owner of Bell+Funk (Eugene)

    Jim Goes, Ph.D., Public Health (Cottage Grove)

    Anita Johnson, Media (Eugene)

    Drew Johnson, Air Toxics Specialist, Environmental Law Student (Eugene)

    Tom Lininger, Attorney, UO Law School Professor (Eugene)

    Ed Meza, owner of Swedish Engineering Auto Repair (Eugene)

    David Monk (Eugene)

    Mary O’Brien, Ph.D., Botanist (Utah)

    Dr. Randy Phelps, OHSU/UofO Early Child Development

    Doug Quirk, Environmental Attorney (Eugene)

    Mark Reed, Ph.D., Geologist, UO Department of Geology (Eugene)

    Debra Schlenoff, Board Member and Conservation Chair at Lane Audubon Society

    Tom Schneider (Portland)

    Kenneth Welker, M.D. (Eugene)

    Mike Williams, Toxics Injury Attorney (Portland)

    Jan Wilson, Land Use Attorney (Eugene)



  10. 10. Paulette Pyle
    01/04/2012 10:40AM

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    A NOTE TO MARGUTH'S NEIGHBOR: It is important to get your facts straight if you are going to be credible when presenting information in the media. You have the OFS Board Members incomplete and wrong.

    As Staff of OFS, we are proud to have Jerry Marguth on the OFS Board and proud of all OFS Board Members. Staff and Board members are parents and grandparents who work in and manage Natural Resource businesses with great responsibility and pride. It is unfortunate that Marguth's Neighbor thinks that readers of the Eugene Register Guard would put stock in his hateful, non-intelligent information about how farmers and foresters engage in their profession.

    Unfortunately, those who oppose the use of crop protection tools are all giddy with support for our Federal and State Regulatory Agencies when they believe agencies' data support their (extreme environmentalist) suppositions, but how they degrade them when the extreme environmentalist disagree with agency information.

    Stop the name-calling and start paying attention to the Science. This is the best course of action to determine public policy. OFS Board and Members (agriculture and foresters) have nothing to gain by doing otherwise.

    A great New Year to All!


  11. 11. John L. Perry
    01/04/2012 10:50AM

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    During my forestry career I supervised helicopter spraying of thousands of acres in Douglas, Coos and Lane counties…including areas around Triangle Lake and Lake Creek. Herbicides used included 2,4-D , Tryclopyr (Garlon), Glyphosate (Roundup), Atrazine (rarely), and others.

    We were always very careful to adhere to all rules and regulations dealing with application parameters. We left unsprayed buffers around property lines and open water and never sprayed if the breeze might cause the spray mix to cross property lines or stream buffers. We also monitored streams near spray sites for contamination. Water samples were collected for analysis by the OSU chemistry department at first, then private laboratories later. Almost always these analyses came back "negative" although we timed sampling to coincide with the time when any contaminated water would be flowing past the sampling point. The very few "positives" showed extremely low levels of contamination, far below any concentration that could conceivably cause health issues in humans or animals and were transient in nature. There was no detectable contamination from runoff during or after rain events. Usually the samples showed no contamination at all.

    I'm retired now but still use herbicides on wheat and Christmas tree crops here on my farm. I co-exist amicably with my neighbor who is opposed to pesticide use and has an organic filbert (hazelnut) orchard. However he rarely gets a marketable crop due to the chronic, ongoing filbert moth infestation his trees support. But that's another story.

    I am skeptical of the recent claims of chemical contamination and perceived, theoretical harm from the Triangle Lake folks. I've heard it all before…



  12. 12. T. L. Witt
    01/04/2012 02:13PM

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    To the Anonymous, Name-calling Neighbor: Your envy is quite apparent as you can only wish for a fraction of the integrity, honesty and intelligence of Jerry Marguth — a former Marine officer and now a great steward of the land as a technologically savvy farmer. And yes he is a Board member of OFS and we are proud of all his responsible contributions to a safe and affordable food supply for all Oregonians.

    I find it almost humorous that many of you folks who make outlandish, scientifically unsupportable claims about an infinitesimally small trace of a well-tested, herbicide — then turn around and think nothing of subjecting themselves and their families to a plethora of substances that have known health consequences or in most cases the effects are completely unknown.

    For example, how many of these extremists consume “biological extracts” and use homeopathic remedies with no toxicological testing or regulatory approval for use? How many drink water from hand dug wells or creeks full of pathogens and animal fecal matter? How many smoke marijuana (for medical or religious purposes of course) or use other non-FDA drugs? And how many heat their home with fire wood – exposing all adults and children to measurable levels of dioxins and highly toxic dibenzo-furans? And are they at increased risk of e-coli poisoning from fertilizing their home-grown produce with manure? If they are indeed having health concerns, perhaps they should more fully investigate their own lifestyle choices first.

    I think the Bible says it better than I can. Matthew Chapter 7: “Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your neighbor’s eye.”



  13. 13. John L. Perry
    01/04/2012 08:52PM

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    T.L.Witt's second paragraph, above, reminded me of a family on Wolf Creek Road, southwest of Eugene, who once objected to my company's plans to apply herbicide on our private timberland on the hillside near their house.

    These people had trespassed to access a small spring 300 feet on our side of the property line without bothering to ask permission. They dug out the spring and installed a 1" plastic pipe to supply their household water. We found their water system while preparing the logging plans.

    On advice from Corporate Legal dept, we chose to allow the un-registered water system to stay rather than go through a lengthy fight. When we harvested timber from the hillside the year previously, we left an un-logged buffer of trees around the spring and took care not to run over the 1" pipe with our logging equipment.

    But, the next year after we had replanted new seedlings, these people objected to our brush release spray plans.

    We showed the people maps and aerial photos of the planned spray area which had the spring and their property line well marked. We explained we routinely made a "recon flight" on each unit in advance of spraying to ensure the pilot knew where the property lines and streams were so he could avoid them. I had the pilot take the neighbor up in the helicopter to give him a bird's eye view of where the spring was in relation to the spray area. I arranged to take and analyze water samples from his kitchen faucet before and after spraying…which we did.

    The neighbor never did drop his hostility. He was convinced that the spraying would somehow contaminate his water supply despite our best efforts.

    The water sample analysis showed no 2,4-D in the "before" sample and none in the "after" sample. The analysis did show, however, high levels of fecal coliform bacteria, probably from animals defecating in the spring when they came to drink.

    That was of no apparent concern to the neighbor or his wife, both of whom also smoked and subjected their small children to 2nd hand smoke as well as contaminated water.

    But they were convinced that the herbicide we used represented a serious risk.

    Go figure.