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Land | Environment | Agriculture

Oregon Judge Grounds Aerial Pesticide Sprayer After It Defies License Suspension

The Oregon Department of Agriculture secured a restraining order this week to stop a company from spraying pesticides commercially without a license.

Last month the agency fined Applebee Aviation $1,110 and immediately suspended its commercial license to apply pesticides after a former Applebee truck driver and pesticide handler sought emergency medical care for on-the-job chemical exposure. Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Division fined the company an additional $8,850.

The case marks the first time the Oregon Department of Agriculture has ever gone to court for a restraining order against a pesticide applicator, spokesman Bruce Pokarney said.

The restraining order was issued by Washington County Circuit Court Judge Janelle Factora Wipper.

“We have been treated unfairly,” Applebee Aviation owner Michael Applebee said Tuesday when asked to comment on the case. Applebee declined to elaborate but said his company would be issuing a press release with more information.

After the notice of violation in late September, Applebee Aviation paid its fine almost immediately, Pokarney said. He said ODA representatives met with Applebee, explained the company was prohibited from spraying, and were working with the company to get its license reinstated once worker safety problems were addressed.

But the company continued to apply pesticides without a license, in violation of state law, according to the Department of Agriculture. Last week the agency learned Applebee Aviation had applied pesticides on Oct. 1 and 2 on Bureau of Land Management land in Lake County, and on September 26 near Astoria, Oregon.

Applebee’s pesticide applications came under scrutiny last year after residents in Douglas County complained pesticides sprayed on nearby forest land drifted across a creek protected for salmon and steelhead populations.

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