Steps to consider when responding to chemical trespass.
- If you came in contact with the chemical through drift or droplets, call the poison control center or seek doctor for treatment advice. The 24-hour medical emergency assistance or chemical emergency assistance (Spill, leak, accident) is 1-800-888-8372.
- If you were sprayed, remove your clothing and place in sealed gallon size plastic bags and wait for SDDA to collect it.
- If you experience any symptoms, go to your local hospital. As part of the diagnosis, request a toxicology blood test for the active ingredients in the chemicals that were sprayed. See step #2 above. Pesticides pose risks of short- and long- term illness to exposed people and their families. Acute (immediate) health effects of pesticide exposure include rash, eye irritation, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and headaches. More serious acute effects include difficulty breathing, seizures, loss of consciousness and death. Chronic (long-term) effects can result in cancer, neurological disorders, hormonal and reproductive health problems, birth defects and infertility (farmworkerjustice.org).
- Journal in your farm activity log the exact date, time, and details of the chemical trespass event.
- Call the farmer or sprayer immediately to obtain the names of the chemicals that were reportedly sprayed.
- Report the incident to your organic certifying agency within 24 hours. They will likely order an additional inspection and their organic inspector may also take samples.
- Submit your complaint to the State of South Dakota Pesticide Program office as soon as possible.
- You may wish to upload your photos and videos to a secure cloud storage location on the Internet where they can be shared with state or federal agency staff.
- If the spray was discharged intentionally or negligently, i.e. the plane purged or discharged chemical over your body or house, call your local law enforcement to report it. They will report it to the FAA themselves and this will build credibility to the seriousness of the case.
- If your pets are sprayed, you will need to wash them too, but only after you take care of yourself first. If your animals start having any symptoms of acute poisoning at all, take them to the veterinary clinic and request toxicological blood tests for the active ingredients in the chemicals that were sprayed.
- If you have beehives that are affected, contact the SD state apiary inspector, Bob Reiners. Request a pesticide residue test on the dead bees for the products that were reportedly sprayed. Also test the wax and pollen for pesticide residues.
- When the inspector arrives from the State of South Dakota, document his actions, i.e. where were the samples taken from, how long was he there, what did he look at, what areas did he visit. Better yet, video tape the whole inspection.
- Once the lab results come back from the samples taken, send a copy to your organic certification agency. They will send you a follow-up letter on the outcomes of their findings.
- You may wish to send a copy of the notification from the certification agency to the conventional farmer and commercial applicator along with a letter explaining how the sanctions have impacted your operation. If they refuse to acknowledge you or turn it over to their insurance agency for consideration, you may have to move to the next step.
- Start your search for an attorney and seek legal advice from the onset. We strongly advise putting together a report of all the details surrounding the event and have this ready to present. It may take 10 to 20 consultations with attorneys until you find the right one willing to help you. That attorney can start writing letters and get responses on your behalf.
- Document all actions taken in your farm journal or diary.
The State of SD is your ally in this, so treat them kindly despite how painstakingly slow and cumbersome the process is to deal with. In the Prairiesun Organics case, they had to be very persistent to get the case escalated. Don't hesitate to share your story on social media, the local news media, your local county commissioners, and your district representatives. If you would like us to publish your story on our website, please send it to us via email.