By Joshua Dillen
After a local resident complained to the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) about possible excessive chemical spraying in Baker City's Central Park, there is an ongoing investigation as required by state law.
Bryan Barrow suffered a reaction last week that he believes was caused by chemicals that had been sprayed in the park, which is just west of the Powder River between Washington and Valley avenues.
He suffered adverse symptoms after walking through the grassy area and noticing a "pungent chemical smell."
"I coughed for about five minutes, my lungs felt heavy and my eyes watered and were puffy and itchy for about five hours," Barrow said.
Barrow lodged a complaint with the ODA. He also said he called Michelle Owen, the city's public works director, and asked whether there had been any chemical spraying in the park on the day he had walked through it.
Owen returned his call and left a message saying a city contractor had applied herbicide that day at Central Park.
"A contractor is doing some spraying - a little bit of Roundup at curblines and then some 2,4D at the park on selected areas for some broad leaf issues," Owen said in the phone message. "A licensed applicator is applying it. It's being done correctly."
Barrow expressed concern for park users.
"Would anyone want their children rolling around in this?" he asked.
Clint Troyer, owner of Grass Masters, which has the contract to maintain city parks and Mount Hope Cemetery, said the herbicide his company uses contains 2,4D, which is one of the ingredients in the controversial defoliant Agent Orange used in the Vietnam War. It is a broad leaf weed killer. He said it is safe for use in public places.
Barrow said he feels the chemical has been used excessively and poses a health hazard to those who use the park.
"If you use it excessively, it will burn the grass," he said. "It's an approved herbicide for use in public spaces."
Troyer said the chemicals used were applied legally and were necessary for weed control in the park.
"My applicator was getting rid of clover, which is an aggressive weed," Troyer said. "If you don't get a handle on it, it spreads."
As required by Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 634, Corey Cooley, ODA pesticide investigator, has met Troyer and determined that Troyer has followed all laws and regulations concerning the chemicals applied in city parks. Cooley is still investigating Barrow's complaint.
Cooley said it will be at least a month before his investigation is complete.
Barrow has sent a letter to the City Council stating his views and suggestions.
"I would like you to consider passage of an ordinance stating that whenever pesticides or herbicides are applied within city parks or other publicly accessible city-owned property such as the Leo Adler path, that signs must be posted as an advisory warning that the area contains such substances," he wrote in the letter.
Barrow's letter also suggested that Baker City follow the example of Ashland, which has banned herbicides and pesticides in parks.
Mike Odenthal, another ODA pesticide investigator, said there is no specific law that requires the posting of signage after spraying. However, products are required to have restricted entry interval (REI) information. This means that there is a required time period when people should not be allowed access to areas that have been treated with chemicals. The REI varies with the type and concentration of the product and may warrant some form of notification to keep out of an area that has been sprayed.