This spring the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality decided against performing a study that would have looked for pesticides in the Siuslaw watershed west of Eugene.
Several activist groups in the area think herbicides sprayed onto clearcut forests are drifting into water and onto adjacent properties. They want the state to strengthen its regulations of spraying.
The state currently asks pesticide applicators to avoid aerially spraying within 60 feet of fish-bearing streams and to avoid ground spraying within 10 feet of fish streams. But applicators are not required to leave a buffer around schools or other residences.
The stream testing was originally proposed by Bobbi Lindberg, a water quality specialist who worked for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for 18 years. Lindberg says in 2011, she received initial approval and training to test streams in the basin for Pesticides using a type of sampler called a POCIS, or Polar Organic Chemical Integrative Sampler. A POCIS is essentially a metal canister with an absorbent material on the inside. Lindberg says she was frustrated when her supervisors cancelled the study.
“There was no information about whether pesticides were getting in the water or not,” she says. “And I felt that was an important issue both in terms of the people who live in that basin and the fish.”
Zach Loboy, western region manager for DEQ, confirmed that the agency had considered performing the testing but decided against it. Loboy said POCIS testing is valid and valuable in many situations, but that it generally doesn’t provide data on the concentrations of the chemicals it detects. He says the agency decided against the testing because it is short on resources and didn’t think the results would be comprehensive enough.
Lindberg retired last fall and a group of local residents raised $8,000 to help her purchase and deploy the POSIS samplers. The group is informally calling itself the Siuslaw Watershed Guardians. An Idaho company, Anatek Laboratories, analyzed the samples and found the two herbicides.
The Siuslaw Watershed Guardians say they have submitted their data to the Oregon Health Authority and the Environmental Protection Agency. Those agencies are leading a state health investigation into pesticide exposure in the Triangle Lake Area.
Read Siuslaw Watershed Guardian’s stream testing results below: Siuslaw Basin Stream Testing
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