The Environmental Protection Agency in Kansas City, Kan. last week fined a Mississippi company for allowing liquid pesticide to be sprayed on Trout Run Trail users a year ago.
Custom Air, LLC, of Louisville, Miss., was hired to spray Quilt fungicide over 120 acres of corn in a field farmed by Jeff Sanderman of Waukon Aug. 12, according to an administrative consent agreement and final order filed by EPA Region 7 in Kansas City. The land is located off Trout Run Road and is owned by Marilyn Holland of Decorah.
Custom Air has agreed to pay a $4,082 civil penalty to the United States in connection with the incident.
Several trail users
The liquid pesticide drifted to the adjacent Trout Run Trail, causing several trail users, including members of a high school cross country team, to complain of skin and eye irritation.
Several people who were on the trail on the day of the field application, including at least five members of the Decorah High School cross country team, told a state investigator that they had been sprayed multiple times by a helicopter flying overhead near the field. The students reported various symptoms, including burning or stinging eyes, worsened allergies and a bad taste in the mouth. None of the runners sought medical attention.
An investigation by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship confirmed that samples of vegetation taken along the trail adjacent to Sanderman's field were contaminated with residue from Quilt fungicide. The investigation also confirmed that weather conditions near Decorah on the day of the application by Custom Air, LLC, were conducive to pesticide drift.
The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) prohibits the aerial application of registered pesticides such as Quilt in ways that will result in human contact, either directly or through drifting. EPA-approved product pesticide can cause substantial but temporary eye injury and is harmful if swallowed.
"EPA wants all aerial applicators operating in Region 7 to know that the Agency and its state partners will respond to complaints about pesticide drift, and where appropriate, enforcement actions will be taken," Regional Administrator Karl Brooks said. "It's easy to see how incidents of this type, occurring near a well-used public area, carry the potential for serious outcomes."
As part of its settlement with EPA Region 7, Custom Air has certified that it is now in compliance with FIFRA and all of its regulations.
Won't spray this year
Sanderman told Decorah Newspapers he has no plans to spray the cornfield this year. The only spraying would be done on a cornfield on the opposite side of the road and a soybean field in the area will be ground sprayed.
"We'll be staying away from the trail," he said.
If the fields where the problem occurred are ever sprayed by helicopter again, Sanderman said he would have personnel on the ground making sure no one uses that section of the trail until the application is completed.
He said he was assured the spraying would be confined to 60 feet from the edge of the field and the area would be scouted for trail users before it was applied. Sanderman also was told the spray would be kept at a minimum of 15 feet away from the trail.
"I didn't think there would be any problems. We should have been in the clear. I want to be a good neighbor -- it's frustrating," Sanderman said.