CSWD's expanded testing for herbicides in compost reveal wider problem with some horse feeds
The latest test results available from the Chittenden Solid Waste District indicate that the recent issue with trace amounts of herbicides found in some batches of CSWD compost reach beyond their product alone and, indeed, beyond Vermont's borders.
"All 12 samples of individual horse farm manure and bedding show the presence of one or both of the persistent herbicides" said CSWD General Manager Tom Moreau. "Given that trend, we sampled some horse feed used by the farmers and four of the national brand of bagged products have tested positive for one of the herbicides."
To date, CSWD has sent to a lab for testing 84 samples of compost, grass clippings, horse manure, leaves and a national brand of horse feed used by local horse farmers who provide manure to CSWD for composting. Six out of seven samples of compost from other brands produced in Vermont tested positive for trace amounts of persistent herbicides picloram and clopyralid between 2.8 and 13.3 parts per billion (ppb). Samples of horse feed returned results of between 104 and 465 ppb of one herbicide. CSWD's compost has consistently measured less than 16 ppb of one or both herbicides. Click here for test results.
The Vermont Department of health has indicated that they would not expect that the presence of these herbicides would cause any harm to those who consume produce grown in affected compost.
CSWD is working closely with the Vermont Department of Agriculture, which regulates herbicides and is conducting its own investigation, and the University of Vermont College of Agriculture and Life Science to understand the science behind this issue.
Chuck Ross, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) issued the following statement:
“VAAFM is in the midst of an independent investigation to determine the source of persistent herbicides, including picloram and clopyralid, found in samples of compost made at Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD) facilities.
"The focus of our investigation is to determine if these products were used in a manner that complies with state and federal regulations. If misuse is detected within the state, we will take appropriate regulatory action. Once the investigation is complete, we will have information to provide guidance to growers and compost producers.
"It is also possible that the use of these herbicides occurred outside state lines, and that they were introduced to CSWD via imported matter. If that is the case, we will attempt to trace that matter back to its point of origin and bring the issue to the attention of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Federal Insecticide Fungicide Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) provides a mechanism for state regulatory agencies to report evidence of adverse impacts from pesticide use to EPA.
"VAAFM is a member of the Association of American Pesticide Control Officials (AAPCO), which is currently working with the EPA to address the issue of persistent herbicides in compost at a national level.
"We understand the public has concerns about the impact of these herbicides. The Health Department has analyzed lab test results provided by CSWD. Levels of herbicides detected in the compost are far lower than levels that would increase risk of harm to human health, but are enough to affect some plants such as tomatoes, potatoes and beans. At this time, there have been no reports of impacted compost from commercial growers.
We will not have any further information to share until our investigation concludes.”
Of particular interest to investigatorsis an understanding of why certain plants in gardens using CSWD's compost appear to be affected more than those grown in other brands produced in Vermont, and to determine the best ways to mitigate damage to plants and speed the breakdown of these herbicides.
To date, 507 people have registered their affected gardens with CSWD. Field technicians are conducting confirmation visits seven days a week and have made it to 420 gardens, about 70% of which they have confirmed signs of herbicide damage related to CSWD's compost. CSWD will begin administering its assistance package early next week.
The Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD) is one of several solid waste districts established in 1987 when the Vermont Legislature passed Act 78 solid waste law. Functioning much like a school or water district, Vermont's solid waste districts are government entities that design regional solutions to the solid waste challenges faced by their member towns. The District's mission is to provide efficient, economical, and environmentally sound management of solid waste generated by Chittenden County towns and cities and their residents and businesses. Converting natural materials into compost is a core means by which CSWD fulfills its mission.
Source: CSWD 8.3.2012