A Mississippi company has agreed to pay a $4,082 civil penalty to the United States for an August 2009 incident in which a liquid pesticide that it sprayed over an Iowa corn field drifted to an adjacent public use trail, causing several trail users, including members of a high school cross country running team, to complain of skin and eye irritation.
Custom Air, LLC, of Louisville, Miss., was hired to spray Quilt fungicide over 120 acres of corn in a field owned by Jeff Sanderman, of Decorah, Iowa, on August 12, 2009, according to an administrative consent agreement and final order filed by EPA Region 7 in Kansas City, Kan. The field is situated immediately adjacent to the Trout Run Trail, an eight-mile public trail for bicyclists, walkers and runners that circles the city of Decorah.
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, later 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 labeling for Quilt notes that the 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.