Dept. of Agriculture investigating if pesticides misused in Summ - WSMV News 4

Dept. of Agriculture investigating if pesticides misused in Summertown

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Since September, 15 neighbors have submitted reports stating they’ve suffered everything from dizziness to coughing to bloody noses. (WSMV) Since September, 15 neighbors have submitted reports stating they’ve suffered everything from dizziness to coughing to bloody noses. (WSMV)
SUMMERTOWN, TN (WSMV) -

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is investigating what caused more than a dozen people to get sick in a rural community in Lawrence County.

The state has received 26 complaints about a material released by a plane over various soy bean and corn fields. Now investigators are looking into whether a pesticide was misused.

Since September, 15 neighbors have submitted reports stating they’ve suffered everything from dizziness to coughing to bloody noses. Other complaints outlined at least 10 instances when animals unexpectedly died.

What’s falling from the sky remains a mystery to Rocky Stone and his community.

“These people know they’re doing wrong,” Stone said.

Stone and his wife, Betsy, run the group, Citizens for Clean, Air Water and Food. They said for the past 15 years, they’ve noticed the planes that fly overhead to treat the farmland.

But over the past three months, the Stones said they’ve seen a change in what the planes have most recently released.

“We talked to the people and realized these animals were dying and people were suddenly having all these strange reactions,” Betsy Stone said.

Jodi Harrington is one of those people. Harrington said last month, she noticed the plane releasing a white cloud over the farm across the street. She said after just seconds of standing outside, she experienced digestive issues.

In a report submitted to the state, Harrington detailed what happened the next day.

“I had spit up four blood clots and then my nose started bleeding,” she said.

Harrington said she also noticed issues with her horse: lumps along both sides of her neck. She said she has not been able to get a veterinarian to examine the animal.

Paul Nichols claimed he, too, got sick after seeing the plane release something just a few feet from where he was standing.

Nichols filed a report with the state in September. He stated at one point, two weeks after spotting the plane, he unexpectedly lost consciousness and fell off the tractor he was working on. The fall reportedly resulted in a concussion and several broken ribs.

“I’ve been throwing up phlegm and stuff ever since then, and that’s highly unusual for me,” Nichols said.

The Stones said they’re convinced the plane released a harmful pesticide. It’s an accusation the plane’s owner denies.

The News 4 I-Team found that plane all the way in Rogersville, AL. The aircraft belongs to the company, Thornton Aerial Application Service.

“Is it possible they are seeing effects from some sort of chemical or pesticide?” reporter Alanna Autler asked.

“That’s not possible,” said Rufus Johnson, the pilot who flew the plane.

Johnson said on three specific days he spread seeds over certain properties in Summertown to prevent soil erosion. He told the I-Team those seeds were neither treated nor covered by any chemicals.

“I feel like people are sincere but I think it’s a lack of being informed of what we’re actually doing,” Johnson said.

But when asked, Johnson said the company has sprayed pesticides over the same area in the past. When the I-Team asked for a list of chemicals used, the company declined to provide it.

The earliest complaint was dated in late September; the most recent complaint was dated last week.

“If it has indeed made us, as a community, sick, I just want the honest truth,” Harrington said.

The state Department of Agriculture is unable to confirm what, if any, pesticides were used until the investigation is complete.

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