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Archive for Sunday, September 16, 2001

State proposes fines in tainted wheat case

September 16, 2001

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— The state wants to fine a grain elevator $10,000 and suspend a chemical applicator's license for 60 days after an incident in which the applicator treated two McPherson County wheat fields with the herbicide paraquat before harvest.

The incident caused the state to embargo 14.2 million bushels housed in five Kansas grain elevators.

Last week, the Kansas Department of Agriculture cleared all but 2,100 bushels of wheat in the Collingwood grain elevator at Marquette.

The state detected no traces of paraquat, which is highly toxic to humans, in wheat stored at Collingwood elevators in Hutchinson or Salina, said Mike Heideman, director of communications for Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

The 2,100 bushels at the Marquette elevator had levels of 1.1 parts per million of paraquat, which is 22 times the allowable tolerance level of 0.05 ppm.

The state is now awaiting Collingwood's plan for disposal.

The agriculture department proposed the highest possible fine allowed by law against Collingwood $5,000 for each case of chemical misuse spokeswoman Lisa Taylor said.

The company has 20 days to request a hearing to appeal any material fact in the case, or the penalty.

Collingwood and applicator Jeff Haggerty are accused of treating two wheat fields one of 22.6 acres and the other covering 125 acres with paraquat to control weeds.

By comparison, the agriculture department proposed an $18,000 fine for Midway Co-op at Osborne for spraying 25 fields 1,200 acres with paraquat.

The co-op paid the three producers for their crop and destroyed the wheat before it could be harvested.

Taylor said Midway Co-op has paid its fine and employee Mark Nichols is serving his 90-day applicator's license suspension.

Taylor said the incidents of paraquat contamination in Kansas this year are "definitely a wake-up call" that label directions on the containers of agricultural pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers should be strictly followed.

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