Oregon Timber Worker Blew The Whistle On Helicopter Spray Practices
Five months after timber worker Darryl Ivy blew the whistle on his employer’s helicopter spray practices in Oregon’s forests, the state Department of Agriculture has proposed revoking the company’s license and fining it more than $40,000.
Ivy, a truck driver, spent 17 days this spring on a spray crew in Douglas County, the heart of Oregon’s timber country. Videos and photos he shot show that he routinely hid inside his pickup truck while herbicides rained down. The milky chemical mix stained Ivy’s windshield white and turned his phlegm red.
In late September, the Oregon Department of Agriculture suspended the spraying license of Applebee Aviation, Ivy’s employer. The state agency, which enforces pesticide laws, initially proposed a $1,110 fine.
But the suspension didn’t stop Applebee Aviation from continuing to spray, according to Agriculture records. The agency says the company illegally sprayed without a license twice on state forests in September and twice more on federal land in Lake County in early October.
The Agriculture Department decided to obtain a temporary restraining order from a Washington County judge last week to get the Banks-based company to stop spraying.
As a result, the agency is proposing to significantly increase its penalties against Applebee Aviation, with a one-year license revocation and $40,000 in fines.
“Applebee Aviation demonstrated that it will ignore … requirements if compliance would cost it money,” Lauren Henderson, Agriculture’s assistant director, wrote in an order proposing the penalty.
Applebee Aviation’s owner, Mike Applebee, didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.
ODA’s investigation found that Applebee Aviation didn’t correct some problems for months, even after they were identified in a story published by The
The penalties can be appealed. Earlier this year, the Agriculture Department eliminated a major fine in a different high-profile spray case after a company’s appeal, while maintaining a year-long license revocation.
Other agencies have penalized Applebee Aviation since Ivy spoke out. The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division, which enforces workplace safety laws, fined Applebee Aviation $8,850 for several violations of state law.
The division still has an open investigation into Seneca Jones Timber Co., the company that hired Applebee to spray. A Seneca attorney, Dale Riddle, says the company did nothing wrong.
The Oregon Department of Transportation also fined Applebee $14,100 for violating laws governing the hauling of hazardous materials.
Applebee Aviation is also being investigated by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, after another employee complained about being sprayed on the job.
Ivy, who remains out of work, is still seeking an attorney. He continues coping with health problems months after leaving the job at which he said he was routinely exposed to chemicals.
His medical records, which Ivy shared with The Oregonian/OregonLive, show he’s been diagnosed with chemical-induced swelling in his nasal passages. Surgery has been recommended. Ivy said he still struggles to breathe normally.
He said the penalties are of little comfort.
“I don’t think anything’s changed, except my life is a living hell,” Ivy said. “It’s been good for educating the public. It’s been a great story for media outlets. It’s been terrible for my life.
“It is so disheartening.”
Article By: Rob Davis, Visit: www.OregonLive.com