Whistleblower Reveals Wanton Disregard for Safety by Oregon Helicopter Spray Operator

Think of it as a ‘Banana Republic’, except the bananas are tall Douglas Fir trees. This is my home state, Oregon, in 2015. Tom McCall and Ken Kesey are no doubt crying in their graves.

“Again and again, herbicides rained down. The milky chemical mix stained Ivy’s windshield white and turned his phlegm red.”

Here’s the story…

Herbicide spray routinely splashed onto the truck's windshield. (click on image to view OregonLive.com article & comments)

Herbicide spray routinely splashed onto the truck’s windshield. (click on image to view OregonLive.com article & comments)

A 45-yr-old man answers a Craigslist ad, looking for a truck driver to provide ground support for a helicopter spray operation. He hires on for a contract job in southwest Oregon. He works for Applebee Aviation, who was hired by Seneca Jones Timber Company to do a series of quick aerial missions, spraying vast clearcuts to kill the Spring sprouts that might compete with planted Douglas Fir seedlings. The man drives the chemical tank truck; the helicopter loads up with weed killer spray, again and again. What alarms him is the disregard for health and safety, when the weed killer spray is applied not just to the forest but EVERYWHERE, even onto the work crews and the truck. He needs the money (it was a Craigslist job!), so he vows to work through the short season, but protects himself as best he can, by carefully staying inside the truck. And, he uses his smartphone to document. Then, he blows the whistle, sharing his videos and the details of his experience with an Oregonian Environment reporter, Rob Davis. Davis’ article reveals a long history of unsafe practices by Applebee, as well as a reliable ineffectiveness by the Oregon Department of Forestry(ODF) and the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). And, through it all, FAA maintains more than an arms-length distance. The same failed agency that takes legal action to stop people from flying 5-pound hobby drones at harmlessly low-altitudes to shoot aerial photos … well, FAA just completely ignores the repeated use of a helicopter to spray people.

This is NOT ‘Our Oregon’ Anymore

In the middle of the nineteenth century, thousands of families uprooted to walk across the Great Plains and a series of mountain ranges and dry basins. They followed the Oregon Trail, dreaming of a land of milk and honey. A place where, if hard work was spent clearing the endless acres of tall, dark forest, a lush farm could take hold, and generations could prosper. They did prosper, but not anymore. Nowadays, prosperity is served out discriminately, funneled through the courts, applying oppressive laws against the many. Laws drafted by lobbyists richly funded by the moneyed few; laws then passed by the elected few, to curry favor with their cronies, the moneyed few who finance their reelection. When Kesey wrote the 1964 Oregon literary classic, ‘Sometimes a Great Notion’, he was documenting the self-sufficient Oregon logging lifestyle. But, at that time, he was also studying the essential American balance between the rights of individuals and the rights of the masses. Fifty years ago that balance was in flux. Now, in 2015, it appears to be ‘game over’. The systemic failures in this story point to the obvious: the democratic ideals underlying this nation are now officially dead. Stolen from the rest of us, by money and by corrupt and self-serving bureaucrats.

See also…

Applebee Aviation, Aerial Spraying and Toxic Exposure
Oregon Aviation Watch – as can be expected from OAW, this is a well-researched and referenced article about Applebee. It includes the history of Applebee accidents (some fatal) and previous environmental failures/penalties. The article also takes a look at the  Oregon legislative politics that obstruct reforms and virtually guarantee future repeat failures and fatalities.