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Maine Blueberry Grower Agrees to Halt Aerial Pesticide Spraying
(Beyond Pesticides, October 7, 2004)
In a move that could have wide ramifications for agricultural practices in Maine and across the county, Cherryfield Foods, Inc, the largest wild blueberry grower and processor in Maine, has informed four environmental groups that it is abandoning all aerial pesticide spraying.

Cherryfield Foods' decision was relayed to Toxics Action Center, Environment Maine, Beyond Pesticides, and Sierra Club in a letter sent to the groups in response to the groups' notice of intent to sue the company for violations of the federal Clean Water Act. In an August 4, 2004 letter, the groups alleged that Cherryfield Foods has been violating the Clean Water Act by aerially spraying pesticides directly into surface waters such as rivers and ponds without a Clean Water Act discharge permit (See Daily News 8/5/04).

Under the Clean Water Act, the groups were required to give 60 days' notice before filing suit. The groups received Cherryfield Foods' response on October 1, the 58th day.

The groups commended Cherryfield Foods' move. "By abandoning aerial spraying, Cherryfield Foods will set an example we hope will become the new standard in the blueberry industry and for other agricultural activities," said Will Everitt, Field Director of Toxics Action Center. Matthew Davis, Environment Maine Advocate, added, "This is a victory for keeping toxic pesticides out of lakes, rivers and coastal waters."

The groups are weighing their legal options in the wake of the Cherryfield Foods' letter. A lawsuit will not be immediately filed. The groups are hoping to talk with the company to get more details on the company's new position.

The State of Maine has found chlorothalonil, a fungicide, and phosmet, an insecticide, in the Pleasant River and its tributaries after Cherryfield Foods' aerial spraying. The Pleasant River and its watershed are habitat for endangered Atlantic salmon.

"Cherryfield Foods' ending of aerial pesticide spraying will be an immediate benefit for the environment in Downeast Maine," said Vivian Newman of the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club.

According to David Nicholas, one of the attorneys representing the groups, Cherryfield Foods was facing what probably would have been the first Clean Water Act lawsuit against an agriculture company for violations linked to aerial pesticide spraying. "The Clean Water Act is important to protecting the health of our nation's waterways. Federal and state statutes governing the regulation and use of pesticides alone do not offer adequate protection," Nicholas said.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Will Everitt, Toxics Action Center (207) 871-1810
Vivian Newman, Sierra Club (207) 594-7534
David A. Nicholas, Esq. (617) 964-1548
Matthew Davis, Environment Maine (207) 253-1965