What to do if chemical spray drift occurs

If you suspect that spray drift has occurred, try to resolve it locally before taking further action to report it. Sometimes, the problem is not as extensive as first feared, or the damage or injury may not be chemically related. People may just be reacting to an apparent chemical odour without any chemical being present.

Below are some actions you should consider before reporting the matter to a government agency.

Discuss health concerns with your local doctor

If you believe your health may be suffering due to spray drift, promptly discuss your concerns with a medical doctor before going further. You may suspect that you've been exposed to spray chemicals, but you may be suffering from a sensory reaction to the odour rather than direct chemical exposure.

Confirm the problem is chemically related

If animals die or are sick or valuable crops sustain damage when spraying is occurring nearby, you may suspect agricultural chemicals as a cause. However, you should also investigate other likely causes such as animal diseases, fungal diseases or nutritional disorders.

Promptly after the incident, ask your local vet or crop consultant to conduct an assessment. If the vet or crop consultant believes chemicals may be involved, reporting the matter to a government agency may still be an option.

If you suspect that spray drift has caused fish deaths, contact the relevant government agency immediately rather than wait for a local vet's assessment. Find out who to report chemical spray drift to.

Determine the extent of the damage

Is the crop damage only expected to be minor, or are the crops likely to grow out of the damage fairly quickly? Consider engaging a private crop consultant to discuss the crops' future after sustaining such damage. They can determine if the damage is due to agricultural chemical exposure, plant pest, disease or nutritional disorder, or another unrelated cause.

You might report the situation to the relevant government agency if the initial minor damage symptoms intensify several days after the alleged spray event.

Discuss your concerns with the people who might be responsible

Approaching the people who might be responsible can be daunting, but it is often the best way to resolve spray drift issues and find out more about what is happening in your area.

You should make the approach tactfully to keep discussions calm and productive. By listening carefully and asking questions, you can better understand the situation and the other person's view.

Sometimes, people in these discussions end up agreeing on the current issue and how to handle planned spraying operations in the future. However, the operator may instead deny responsibility. Or they may accept liability and settle the matter amicably.

Not all discussions result in favourable outcomes due to mitigating factors that need further discussion. But these discussions can help get all parties talking about the incident and other valuable information may become apparent.

Contact your industry association

These associations often employ agronomists and consultants with experience in spray drift matters. They may help you mitigate any losses incurred and deal with damage that has arisen.

If you report it to your industry association, you may find others who have been similarly affected. Industry associations can discuss the issues with government agencies when this occurs.

Notify a government agency

After considering all of the above options, you may still wish to lodge a complaint or raise your concerns with a government agency. To identify the agency best suited to handle your complaint, find out who to report chemical spray drift to.

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