PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The state of Oregon has launched an investigation into contaminated soil and compost after receiving complaints. Lab results from the Oregon Department of Agriculture found clopyralid, an herbicide in soil and compost, in samples from local gardeners who found deformities in the plants they were growing. The soil in question was purchased at some of the most popular soil distributors in the Portland area.
The investigation started when Iris Nason, who grows tomatoes at home for local schools, noticed something strange happening in her plants: they were curling and appeared deformed. She had purchased her favorite topsoil from Dean Innovations—now just branded as Dean’s—from a product line called White Lightning. She said she had been using this soil with great success for years.
“I’m growing a lot of tomatoes for the community and I noticed the plants were starting to curl in on themselves,” said Nason.
Nason mentioned the plant deformities to her horticulture group and others said they were experiencing the same thing, and not only from White Lightning, but from several other products sold by Dean’s.
“We know of farmers who have 20 yards. We know a farm planning to sell their products—10 yards—at her home garden. She’s pregnant and is not going to eat it,” said Nason. “We had tests run and they came back positive for clopyralid. Now we’re trying to figure out what is safe and what is not safe.”
Gardeners also filed complaints with the ODA about products from McFarlane’s. The company said that its own testing has returned “non-detected” results “for the past 12 years for herbicides.” For additional, third-party testing, the state pulled soil samples from that company on Monday, but has not yet received conclusive results.
Dean’s released a statement over the weekend that said the two products that trace amounts of the herbicide were found in have been pulled from the shelves. The president also said the company was in the process of seeking out “new organic supplier relationships”
Both companies are working with the state to identify the source of the herbicide.
The ODA said clopyralid has very low toxicity if ingested or touched to skin, however, the herbicide is banned by many states, including Washington. In Oregon, it’s only allowed to be used for grass and is prohibited from being used in compost.
If you think your soil might be contaminated, contact the business where you bought it from to find out what options might be available. You can also file a report with the Department of Agriculture—the ODA has resources online for where people can get their soil tested as well. Gardeners who have purchased the soil should avoid using it for several months so the clopyralid can break down, according to ODA advice.
The ODA has not yet identified the original source of the contamination.