Rural Community Believes Pesticides Causing Harm

Posted at 11:26 AM, Nov 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-08 17:15:10-05

Neighbors of a small Lawrence County town have taken action against an Alabama-based company who they believe is using harmful pesticides that's harming them and their animals.

Rocky Stone and his wife Betsy have moved front and center in a battle brewing between the community, the company, and possibly the state - maybe the government - whoever has been allowing potentially toxic pesticides to damage their land, animals, and neighbors. 

"The truth will come out, those people are going to hang themselves because they're poisoning my neighbors," Stone said. "Thirteen animals are dead, thirteen people affected, and five animals are sick."

It's all surrounding an aerial crop dusting company that was hired by local farmers. So far, neighbors have filed 26 different complaints with the state. They said the Alabama-based company has been using pesticides that shouldn't be used in Tennessee - pesticides like Dicamba. 

"That's a federal offense," Stone yelled. 

Residents have seen the plane regularly for years and began to notice a change in the wildlife and in their pets about two years ago.  

Gayle Faulkner moved back into her childhood home in 2012. She said that's about the time she began having serious respiratory problems. "I just know my health... My dog, my precious dog died in June," she said. 

Faulkner racked up a $36,000 dollar bill in the hospital. "I was in the hospital with pneumonia, bronchitis, turned out to be asthma," she explained.  

Faulkner has believed whatever's being sprayed across the fields here has been making her and her neighbors sick. "I don't know what they were spraying but every time they harvest, I come down with this," she explained. 

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture - which has enforced both state and federal pesticide laws - has launched an investigation into the alleged pesticide misuse. In a statement the department added; 

"The Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) is responsible for the enforcement of state and federal pesticide laws and regulations. Pesticides are valuable tools in plant and insect management when used properly and lawfully.

TDA’s pesticide section works with commercial and private applicators, pesticide manufacturers and dealers, structural pest control operators, farmers, landscapers and others to ensure regulations are followed for public safety. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is authorized to investigate those cases involving alleged pesticide misuse, pesticide drift, improper pesticide labeling and people who may be applying pesticides without the proper certification, license, charter, bond and/or insurance."

"We just need to know the poisons that are in it," Faulkner said.  

For this community, answers couldn't come soon enough.

"We want clean air, clean water, and clean food," Betsy Stone said.