For years, Maine’s largest blueberry grower, Cherryfield Foods, used airplanes to spray pesticides over its berry fields. Aerial spraying is inherently indiscriminate, as chemical spray drifts with the wind and contaminates nearby land and waterways. The harmful effects of these pesticides reach beyond crop-eating pests, to the birds, fish, and beneficial insects like bees that live near agricultural fields. Of particular concern in Maine are endangered Atlantic salmon, which ingest pesticides through contaminated water.
To protect Maine’s waters from toxic pesticide spray drift, in August 2004 NELC served Cherryfield Foods with a 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue on behalf of four environmental groups. The notice letter stated that Cherryfield violated the Clean Water Act by spraying pesticides directly into surface waters without a discharge permit. To avoid our lawsuit, the company abandoned all aerial spraying and transitioned to targeted ground spraying, creating a powerful precedent within the Maine blueberry industry and wider agricultural community.
Following on the heels of our successful litigation against the aquaculture industry, this case represents another innovative use of the Clean Water Act to protect an endangered species – Maine’s Atlantic salmon.