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for people who care about the West

Photographs of the Gold Beach community

The people affected by this timberland herbicide cocktail.

 

In October 2013, a helicopter whirred over a clear-cut near Cedar Valley, Oregon. It sprayed herbicides to kill weeds, shrubs and trees that compete with the Douglas-fir and other trees harvested by the state’s $20 billion timber industry. Dozens of people in the nearby community also came into contact with the sprayed chemicals, and many are still reporting adverse health effects.

One person who has had deteriorating health since the spraying is James Aldridge. He was a full-time logger for 27 years and active fisherman and hunter until the clear-cut behind his home was sprayed. When he went to check his water system after the spraying, his skin felt like it was burning: “It feels like battery acid in my joints.” He’s been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, he throws up almost every day, and he’s never been able to go back to work. Aldridge and his wife, Pam, used to get drinking water from a small stream that flows across timber company land and behind their house. The couple no longer drinks the water, but they still bathe in it because they have no other option.

While other states require private timber companies to use buffers around residential areas and to notify the public of spraying, Oregon requires buffers solely for the protection of fish and surface water. Many residents of Cedar Valley are advocating for tighter restrictions.

These photos tell this and other stories of those affected by herbicide spraying in Cedar Valley near Gold Beach, Oregon. Read the full feature story by Rebecca Clarren here.