Toxic Pesticides Released During Aerial Spraying

Tiller, Oregon Residents Exposed to Aerial Spray Toxins

By Miki Barnes, LCSW
December 5, 2014

On 12/1/14, Tony Schick of Oregon Public Radio published a report entitled How One Complaint Reveals the Flaws in Oregon's Pesticide Regulations. The article discusses the concerns of impacted residents in Tiller, Oregon, who were exposed to toxic chemicals released during an aerial spraying activity in April of 2014. Shortly thereafter they began experiencing negative health symptoms. In addition, trees and plant life in the area were damaged.

Applebee Aviation Cited for Violating Aerial Pesticide Spray Regulations

According to the article, “On April 16, a helicopter sprayed the Seneca Jones Timber Company property with chemicals later found hundreds of feet off site...Seneca Jones hired Applebee Aviation to conduct the spraying.” Both Applebee and the pilot, Patrick Hall, were cited “each with two counts of violating Oregon law for allowing it to drift off target and over water. Hall and Applebee Aviation did not respond to interview requests. According to state documents, they described the application to investigators as routine.”

This is not the first time Applebee Aviation, located in Buxton, Oregon, has been involved in an accident linked with dangerous pesticides. In April of 2014, a 22 year old man died after a head on collision with a commercial truck driven by contractors from Applebee Aviation. At the time, the truck was transporting helicopter fuel and herbicides intended for aerial spraying on behalf of a Roseburg Forest Products project. Per a report from The World, “Several of the herbicide barrels fell off the truck, and the fuel leaked downhill towards the river...The Region 15 Hazardous Materials Team, based at the Coos Bay Fire Department, was dispatched to handle the chemical containment and cleanup.” For additional details see the report from KOIN News. Applebee Aviation has also been involved in a number of helicopter accidents some of which involved agricultural operations.[1]

In addition, the Washington Department of Agriculture website indicates that Luther Phillips from Applebee Aviation was fined $450 and his license was suspended for seven days for a June 2010 violation, “while making an herbicide application by helicopter to a forestry site in Clallam County, Phillips sprayed the wrong clear-cut and heavily damaged a two-year old western hemlock plantation.”

Pacific Air Research Aerial Spraying Incident Near Gold Beach

The issue of helicopter aerial spraying of herbicides was also in the news in October of 2013 when residents in Cedar Valley near Gold Beach reported negative health consequences including asthma attacks, hand swelling, skin rashes, headaches and stomach aches after aerial spray pesticides were released over their homes. In this case Steve Owen, the owner of Pacific Air Research, was cited and fined. See Southern Oregon Pesticide Case Highlights Gaps In State Oversight and EPA Fines Oregon Herbicide Applicator $1,500 for additional information regarding this incident.

Possible Legislative Solution

Fortunately, Senator Michael Dembrow who serves as Chair of the Senate Environmental and Natural Resources Committee and Rep Ann Lininger of Lake Oswego are in the process of drafting legislation to better protect Oregon residents from the dangers of toxic pesticide exposure and aerial spraying. Their efforts are discussed in an article by Tony Schick at Legislation In Works For Oregon Herbicide Spraying.


[1] Other helicopter accidents in aircraft registered to Applebee Aviation include the following. See National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) aviation query site for details:

  • On 7/23/14 a pilot died while involved in a helicopter agricultural operation in Wenatchee, Washington.
  • On 11/14/11 a pilot sustained serious injuries while loading Christmas trees in Woodburn, Oregon.
  • On 7/12/11 a helicopter crashed during an agricultural operation in Wenatchee, Washington.
  • On 6/23/10 a helicopter crashed during an aerial application flight in Rickreall, Oregon.
  • On 5/19/06 a helicopter with a flight instructor and student pilot on board sustained serious damage during a training flight at the Skyport Airpark, a private facility in Cornelius, Oregon.
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