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Shady Valley residents meet to discuss problems in the Valley

Shady Valley Country Store was packed and standing room only as approximately 50 residents from Shady Valley gathered together Tuesday, November 23rd to discuss the on-going smell and health problems that have plagued the community for the past few weeks. Camera crews from both local channel five and eleven were on hand to film during the meeting.
David Dail, owner of Shady Valley Country Store, and Tony Barry, both Shady Valley residents, led the informal and informative meeting. Packets were made available with telephone numbers and contacts for government officials. This is a starting point to advise representatives of the horrific smell that had permeated the air in recent weeks, as well as to make them aware of the many people who have become ill with respiratory problems. People were extremely concerned over the immediate and long-term effects on the health of those living in Shady Valley.
Concerned that the pesticide, metam sodium, that was reportedly sprayed in the arugula fields in Shady Valley was the source of the smell and health problems, Barry said, “It’s a poison.” Residents are worried that not only will the pesticide be present in the air, but it will find its way into Shady Valley’s water sources. “I’ve got 71 (dead) fish to prove that,” said Shady Valley resident Donna Reed.
As the meeting continued, more residents expressed anger, frustration and fear regarding the potential problems metam sodium can cause them, their families and to Shady Valley itself.
Metam Sodium is an agricultural soil fumigant. It is used as a pesticide, an herbicide and a fungicide. It can be used on food, feed and fiber crops, according to the website www.beyondpesticides.org. Its Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rating is considered a class one, which is highly toxic. It is listed as a carcinogen. Metam sodium is reported to cause birth and developmental defects and fetal death. Among the list of symptoms of exposure to metam sodium are respiratory problems, eye and throat irritations, along with stomach upsets and rashes. It is considered toxic to birds and fish. The product itself is normally used to sterilize the soil before crops are planted. It is one of the most commonly used pesticides in the United States.
Metam sodium is also known as Vapam, HASP (metam fluid) and Amvac.
Donna Reed posed a question to Shady Valley’s residents at the meeting. “If it’s not toxic, where are the rabbits and deer?” Reed asked, “This is the first year we have no wild turkey.” Reed lost 71 koi and goldfish that perished soon after the arugula fields were sprayed. Reed is very upset about the loss of her fish and is concerned over her health and the health of people throughout Shady Valley. According to Barry, he has received phone calls from approximately 15 people who have called to report respiratory problems. The long-term effects of metam sodium are not known. “There are a lot of unknowns,” Dail said.
Both Dail and Barry stressed that although the residents may not like it, the growers, B&W Growers out of Florida, that lease the land have the right to operate in Shady Valley. One resident stood up and announced that she had suffered with severe headaches for several days. Many residents nodded their heads in agreement and mutterings of “Me, too,” could be heard throughout the room. The residents who reported respiratory problems all appeared to suffer similar symptoms. “I feared for my life,” a woman shared.
James Woods stood and addressed the concerned citizens gathered at Shady Valley Country Store. According to Woods, he noticed that his throat began to tighten shortly after the pesticides were sprayed. Woods added that he began to experience shortness of breath, leading to difficulty with breathing. Becoming weaker and weaker, Woods was rushed to the hospital with what was believed to be a heart attack. He stated his blood pressure had skyrocketed to 217/103 and he had an irregular heartbeat. As of the meeting Tuesday evening, Woods was still experiencing medical problems and was scheduled to see a respiratory specialist. At press time, he reported he was having an easier time breathing. Woods said at the onset of his health problems, “I just couldn’t get enough air in.” He added that the smell in Shady Valley seems to have lessened in the past few days.
Patty Winters has been plagued with respiratory problems since the arugula fields were sprayed approximately two weeks ago. In reference to the smell that residents in Shady Valley noticed after the spraying, Winters said, “Oh, it’s nasty.” She added that the odor smells like sulfur or rotten eggs, along with another smell she cannot identify. She says her eyes are still burning and irritated, but “I’m fine when I leave the valley,” Winters added. She is currently being treated for her symptoms with medication and steroids. She added that she had to take her oldest daughter to the doctor for similar symptoms. Winters reported that her doctor informed her that he is required to report that he treated a patient for respiratory problems following a pesticide spraying in Shady Valley. According to Winters, the diagnosis she received was “bronchitis due to inhalation of pollutants.” She added her doctor advised that the best thing she could do would be to take her family and leave Shady Valley until the spraying ceased. She added, “There’s always been an odor but this is the first time I know that people have been sick.”
Tom Womack is the Director of Public Affairs for Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA). According to Womack, the TDA received three complaints from residents of Shady Valley with regard to health problems after a pesticide was sprayed on the lands leased and run by B&W Growers. Inspectors collected water, fish and vegetative samples to help determine if a misapplication or violation occurred during the spraying in question. Womack confirmed that the pesticide in question is Metam CLR 42 percent, also known as metam sodium. When released into the air, metam sodium can become a gas. Exposure to this gas can cause respiratory problems and is toxic to fish.
According to Womack, B&W Growers contracted Highland Soil Fumigation, Inc., to apply the pesticide in their fields. Womack added that both B&W Growers and Highland Soil Fumigation are cooperating with the TDA’s investigation. As of press time, water samples have come back negative for metam sodium. However, Womack stressed that the negative result does not mean that the chemical was not present, but that they were unable to confirm it with their laboratory testing. The water analysis is a small part of the investigation and many conditions will be evaluated, including the application of the chemical, the weather conditions, record keeping and interviews with the residents themselves to determine if any violation occurred. Womack believes the results of the investigation should be complete within another week.