In 2001 the Smith River Project, the predecessor of Siskiyou Land Conservancy, began collecting from Smith River residents their personal stories of apparent pesticide poisoning and other problems along the Smith River Plain.
Whereas few residents of the small town are willing to speak publicly, they have shared with us their afflictions and concerns so that we may get the word out for them.
Some of these comments were derived from a health assessment mailed to all residents of Smith River in February 2016. The full results of the survey will be available in spring of 2016.
” I live next to two lily fields and pesticide dust gets over everything all the time.”
” I live next to lily fields. My roommate and I have been suffering from a lot of health problems since coming here five years ago. He has had problems with headaches, stomach problems and bouts of severe diarrhea. I have a lot of breathing problems which now require the use of 2 inhalers. I also suffer from constant allergy symptoms and am on a prescription for that as well. There are times we can smell and taste chemicals in the air. We are in an area heavily populated with lily bulb farms! The [well] water looks cloudy at times, and after taking showers our skin literally feels like it is crawling from itching and dryness. Before coming here I did have very mild breathing and allergy problems. I do stress very mild though. I never needed to take medications before coming here. And it’s tough even with the medication. As for my roommate. He had the normal type headaches but nothing like he has been getting. The stomach problems just since being here. Everything has been worse since being here.”
“I ask the farmers what chemicals they’re using because it makes me sick every time they spray.”
“We moved to this location in the late ‘80s and found out after buying the property that a few years earlier our land had been used for lily fields. Today lily fields are still grown adjacent to us. Two years ago two people living on this land were diagnosed with cancer.”
“I wanted to thank you for your work on this important issue. I live in Del Norte County and I am concerned about the possible contamination of the Smith River. I grew up in Smith River and worked in the lily bulbs when I was younger. During the last couple of years, I have heard several local people express their concerns about the effect of decades of pesticide use. I don’t have anything against the lily bulb growers. However, I believe the Smith River Project is doing the right thing by testing wells. The county has been lax in getting around to testing wells.”
“Let me begin this letter by commending your efforts in the Smith River area. There is an epidemic occurring among the children and farm workers in the Smith River. Our children do not have a voice in these matters but they area being poisoned by the pesticide spraying.”
“This is a resident of Smith River. In our house we have two cases of cancer. There were two next door. A lady in another nearby house has cancer. There’s something wrong up here. Something’s terribly wrong. But you better keep your mouth shut around here. Small town, bad scene.”
“I’ve got pictures of them spraying some type of powder, or whatever it is they’re doing, with large clouds coming up and it was blowing over onto my property. And every time we get this in us, it burns our lungs, our throat and our sinus cavities. I am concerned about what it is. The pictures are real clear, you can see it’s a high wind day and the pesticides are crossing the street and it’s so heavily saturated that you can see cars coming out of the cloud as it crosses [the street]. You can’t see them while they’re in the clouds; it’s pretty saturated is what I’m getting’ at. I notice that they’re spreadin’ these pesticides or chemicals, whatever they are, on high wind days. They’re not doing anything to even attempt to contain it. And again I am concerned about what it is.”
“We lived … adjacent to those fields. Every time they sprayed, and it was often, we got violently sick, even the dog. They sprayed right behind our house, just 15 feet from our living room. And we thought that was against the law, but never could find out. We ended up selling our home there for a sizable loss just to get out.”
“I am overly concerned. When the fields are injected with gas it is sickening. There is a very high cancer in people and animals in this area. We have had hives of bees die, complete hives in one day.”
“There are 5 homes that I am personally aware of that one or more of the residents were diagnosed and treated for cancer. This is all on the same street. I have had cancer twice, the person we bought the home from had cancer. One of our neighbors also had cancer twice and one of the other neighbors died due to cancer.”
“We would like to see a healthy estuary for people and salmonids – keep up the good work SLC, do not get discouraged.”
“A couple times a year they spray the field at the side of the school and behind our houses. The chemicals make it very hard to breathe. No one should be outside when this chemical is being used. This chemical cannot be ok in a neighborhood with people, pets and children.”
“Neighbor got cancer and died, my mom got cancer and died, I got cancer again, still here, in remission. In 22 yrs living here, 4 dogs and 2 cats all died of cancer.”
“Please stop the use of pesticides in the fields which are in close proximity to residences. They say that Smith River leads the area in rates of cancer. Scary! Would not have moved here if I were aware of this.”