A group of concerned citizens have banned together to form Shady Valley Neighbors for Clean Air and Water, falling under the wings of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. This organization was founded as a result of the misapplication of the pesticide, metam sodium, by Highland Soil Fumigation Company in November of 2010, and the subsequent water, soil and health problems that have since arisen in Shady Valley.
The Shady Valley Neighbors for Clean Air and Water held their first press conference on Thursday, May 12, 2011. President Tony Barry addressed some of the concerns of the people of Shady Valley who had been adversely affected by the pesticide spraying. According to Barry's press release, Shady Valley Neighbors for Clean Air and Water has organized to monitor and investigate threats to Shady Valley's air quality and the supply and quality of water. In 2008, B&W Quality Growers, who rents land from several local landowners in Shady Valley to grow their arugula crop, began drilling wells for irrigation. The Shady Valley Neighbors for Clean Air and Water are concerned that this drilling was responsible for the sinkholes that occurred along Route 421 in the spring of 2008. While B&W Quality Growers have previously stated that water tables are monitored as the arugula fields are watered, the group is very concerned that the irrigation from the wells will cause the water tables to drop throughout parts of Shady Valley. The group reported that some residents have had to lower their well pumps and others have experienced mud in the water. Unusual smells have also been reported by the residents of Shady Valley that began with the B&W Quality Growers operation in the valley.
Immediately after the misapplication of metam sodium, people in Shady Valley began to report respiratory problems, headaches, nausea, severe coughing and blisters on their skin. In their press release, Barry added that between 30 and 50 people were exposed to the toxic fumes that stayed in the valley for days. This includes several school children that were in attendance at Shady Valley Elementary School. The children exhibited the same symptoms as the adults who were exposed.
While The Tennessee Department of Agriculture investigated the misapplication and fines were imposed upon both B&W Quality Growers and Highland Soil Fumigation Company, the organization is concerned that no one from any agency or organization has investigated the impact of this pesticide on the people of Shady Valley. To date, the smell of pesticide continues to waft through the air on windy days. Several people became sick at the press conference as the winds began to blow, causing headaches, nausea and lethargy. A representative of Senator Corker's office confirmed that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been made aware of the metam sodium misapplication and is looking into the matter. We would like to see the EPA on the ground and investigate the sickness that continues six months after the (metam sodium) application, Barry said. Barry is hopeful the EPA will perform soil analysis on the fields that were sprayed.
According to Barry, the mission of the Shady Valley Neighbors for Clean Air and Water is to monitor the B&W Quality Growers' arugula fields and to make sure that strict guidelines are followed when chemicals are sprayed on the crops. The goal of the group is to make sure that no one is hurt due to the use of pesticides on the fields of Shady Valley. Barry explained that the group plans on closely monitoring the arugula fields, observing the irrigation of the crops, along with detailed observations of the farming activities. After the growing season, the group plans on publishing their findings. Shady Valley Neighbors for Clean Air and Water encourages local residents to help monitor ground water levels in the arugula fields, report any unusual odors and any possible misuse of chemicals. The organization supports the growing of food on a localized level, as well as the values of family-owned small farms in Shady Valley that do not endanger the water supply or health of the people of the valley.