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Aerial Application of Herbicides in the Sam Rayburn Watershed


Pesticide Use in Rayburn Water Shed


Ethics – A follow up on Helicopters, Rayburn Slicks and Agency Responses published in the Nov. / Dec. Black Bass

The February16 issue of the Jasper Newsboy reported on a meeting held on January 26, 2000 held at the Stephen F. Austin University extension complex on Rayburn for the announced purpose of dispelling rumors about Sam Rayburn reservoir. Turns out the meeting actually provided a forum for timber company representatives to deceive the meeting audience and Jasper Newsboy representative Rick Spivey to deceive Newsboy readers and the public with blatant misrepresentation of the facts. Quoting the Jasper Newsboy; “Mike Hudson of Temple-Inland added that his company did not use aerial applications of either herbicides or pesticides at any time. Representatives of each timber company present echoed that statement one-by-one.” “The denial by every company and agency that chemicals possibly harmful to fish or vegetation had not been introduced was not the answer expected by their accusers”. The, “not the answer expected”, statement is about the only thing in the Jasper Newsboy article that was truthful. 

Actually, several members of the audience were wondering what six or seven tank trucks, each having several thousands of gallons capacity and designed to service helicopters, were used for. We assumed that this equipment seen at the commercial pesticide spraying operations center located just outside Jasper on highway 63, was only being used to apply pesticides in aunt Minnie’s and cousin Delbert’s back yard vegetable garden. Sure we did, and we are cueing up to bid on purchase of the Angelina River bridge.

Continuing to quote the Jasper Newsboy; “Confirming the denials of the timber industry were Joe Pace of the Texas Forest Service (TFS), and Joe Hamrick, representing the Texas Forestry Association (TFA).” “ Mike Hudson of Temple-Inland added that his company did not use aerial applications of either herbicides or pesticides at any time”. “Hamrick reported that each of the four major timber industrial giants in East Texas, Temple, Champion, International Paper, and Louisiana Pacific met all requirements of the SFA program. There is no way they could qualify if they were spraying harmful chemicals on the forest around the lake”, said Hamrick.”

The truth about aerial application of pesticides use in the watershed of Rayburn can be found in the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) document reporting on Incident No. 2424-03-00-0003. Some results of the investigation as reported by the TDA Inspector are excerpted from the report and presented below. 

· “inconclusive (sic) as to the cause of health symptoms experienced by Mr. and Mrs. Buchanan and Mr. Beaty “. This in response to their report of being directly exposed to spray coming from helicopters. 

· “Industrial Helicopters made an application on August 14-15, 17-19, 21, 1999 to timberlands owned by Elvin “Buddy”Lowery. The products used were Arsenal and Chopper, and Garlon 4.”

· “North Star Helicopters, Inc. made an application on September 23,1999 to Champion International Corporation timber compartment 03188013. The products used were Arsenal herbicide and Accord Herbicide.”

· “Chem-Air made an application on October 1, 1999 to Temple-Inland Forest Products Corporation compartment 03188013. The products used were Arsenal Herbicide and Accord herbicide.”

· “Silva-Tech South made a ground application on October 12-14, 1999 to International Paper timberland to compartment 008, stand 048. The products used were Arsenal and Accord.”

· “No evidence or documentation was obtained during the course of the investigation to indicate that the applications were made inconsistent with label directions or that a violation of the pesticide statutes or regulations occurred.”

An exact estimate of the quantity of pesticides applied to the water shed of Sam Rayburn is not available but consider this. In response to one citizens complaint and subsequent investigation, the TDA report discloses that four separate commercial pesticide application companies were working in the watershed of Sam Rayburn in the August to October, 1999 period and thousands of gallons of pesticides were applied. The TDA report belies the statement; “Around Sam Rayburn the use of herbicides is so close to zero as to be almost non-existent”, attributed to Joe Pace by the Newsboy article.

The November / December issue of Black Bass magazine reported three separate sightings of extensive “slicks” on the surface waters of Sam Rayburn in the same period of time. One of these sightings was investigated by TNRCC. TNRCC had no difficulty finding the slick which was reported October 22,1999 and they acquired and analyzed water samples from the area. No evidence of pesticide contamination was disclosed by the TNRCC analyses for chemical content by an extensive array of tests.

When Mr. Spivey, the Jasper Newsboy representative, was engaged in a discussion of the deception issue his response was; “technically they did not lie”. His opinion is that the actual people who responded to direct questions did not participate in the spraying operations therefore they were not lying.

Pesticide applications in forest lands are typically performed under contract and the timber company employees don’t pilot the helicopters. This layering of responsibility provides some protection from legal entanglements and obviously has provided opportunity to deceive. Ethical people and respectable corporations, that put some value in public relations, do not respond to questions with deliberate deception. One such performance is sufficient to destroy creditability, and those who responded to the direct questions with brazen disregard for ethics and public concerns have branded themselves as being untrustworthy. Perhaps the management and stock holders of these companies and the Jasper Newsboy should evaluate the effect of these activities upon public relations.

The Jasper Newsboy article headline was; “Persistent rumors about Lake Sam Rayburn laid to rest”. A more appropriate headline might be Persistent rumors about Lake Sam Rayburn Lied to rest”. It won’t happen. The conduct of some of the meeting participants and the deceptive reporting practice of the Jasper Newsboy have added fuel to the fire.



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