A series of articles appeared in the Bellingham Herald newspaper,
published in Watcom County, Washington State USA this February. It concerns a
toxic agricultural chemical banned in the USA in 1983, which is still
appearing in farm community wells above the "toxic level" in 1998. The
chemical is ethel dibromide.
February 2, 1998 -- Study Seeks Cancer Trigger, page 1.
Feb. 2, 1998 -- In 4 days, leukemia delivers fever, pain, death to
toddler, page 1.
Feb. 2, 1998 -- Testing our water: Mom's ZIP-code search finds cancer
grouping, page A8.
Feb. 2, 1998 -- Lynden teen-ager combats leukemia with humor, faith, page
Feb. 3, 1998 -- Families endure years of bottled water, page 1.
Feb. 3, 1998 -- Testing our water: Experts: Test county wells for
pollutants, page A7.
Feb. 3, 1998 -- Public Safety: State provides water to area with
contaminated wells, page 1.
Feb 3, 1998 -- Pesticide seeps from soil to water, page A7.
March 11, 1998 -- County will fund water study, hire water expert, A8.
Mar. 12, 1998 -- County well results mixed, page 1
Mar. 12, 1998 -- Pesticide exceeds standards in 2 wells, page A2
A short summary of these articles are: a mother, distressed when her 2
year old boy went from onset of symptoms to death by leukemia in four days,
found a cancer cluster surrounding her in the local five zip codes. The known
deaths were six times the statistical averages for that size population.
Testing of her well revealed EDB contamination.
County health officials did not warn landowners and new buyers to test
specifically for EDB until 1998, even though they were delivering bottled
water to 20 farmsteads with known contaminated wells for years. Tests for EDB
can cost $400 per well tested. EDB results do not appear on routine tests for
$9,000/year is currently being spent delivering bottled water to 20
farmsteads with known EDB contamination contaminated wells for drinking and
cooking purposes. EDB is known to be absorbed through the skin and inhaled
from contaminated soil.. $37,000 has been spent on bottled water deliveries
for contaminated well farmsteads in the past four years. Great Lakes Corp.,
of Indiana settled with the state Ecology Department for $575,000 for causing
long-lasting environmental damage.
EDB has a half-life of decay of 20 years. One well tested in 1984 had 115
times the legally allowed 0.02 parts per billion before the product was banned
completely. It would take 140 years for this well to clean itself at that
rate of decay, although the contaminated plume could be diluted, or move
downstream under someone else's well in that century and a half. Another well
tested almost three times as high at 308 times the "safe" level.
EDB was used for nematoid control and soil fumigation for raspberries,
strawberries, and potato farms from 1948 through 1983, when it was banned in
Raspberries are the largest cash crop in Watcom county. Most farmers
contacted refused to allow testing of their wells, or allow drilling test
wells by the USGS, who was conducting a study of water contamination of EDB.
EDB was largely replaced by methyl bromide, a greenhouse depleting gas
scheduled to be eliminated in the US and EU by 2002, at the soonest or 2005 at
the latest. Methy bromide is used to fumigate soil for berries, potatos and
My purpose of bringing to your attention these articles and facts is to
discuss responsibility and ethics. The point I want to hold forever in
awareness is that farming is not presumed harmless categorically. Farming
practices which deviate from long-term historically-proven benign are
categorically suspect of remote and long-term malignant impact until proven by
time to be benign. Farmers, farm-advisors, farm-chemical manufacturers, and
public servants are to be held constantly and fully responsible for all
intended and unintended impacts of their actions. The burden of proof is on
the "innovators" to demonstrate fully and completely that they have made all
good-faith efforts to be aware of harm and avoid it. I am prepared to
constantly demonstrate the wrongness and injury caused when the burden is
falsely transferred to critics to prove the harm. Those who financially
benefit owe the cost of discovery of harmlessness. Before they injure. We do
not tolerate negligent homicide from drivers, why should we tolerate it from
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