Skip to main content

The Poisoning of Melyce

In 1988-1989, I taught at Humboldt State University in the redwoods of northern California. Before returning to the EPA in Washington, DC, where I worked from 1979 to 2004, I visited Carol van Strum in Tidewater, Oregon.
Carol, and her husband, a Vietnam War veteran, Paul Merrell, lived in a remodeled garage, the remnant of a huge house burnt in 1978. The burning house killed Carol's four children. She suspected that a killer employed by the industry set her house on fire.
Carol, plain like a peasant and smart and dynamic like a leader in protracted guerrilla warfare, loved to talk about her struggle against the poison merchants and two government agencies she blamed for the trouble she has had with forest sprays: the US Forest Service and the EPA.
In 1983, she published a book describing her fight to stop toxic forest sprays, A Bitter Fog: Herbicides and Human Rights. The publisher of this book, Sierra Club, stopped listing and promoting it.
Neither Carol van Strum nor Paul Merrell had any remnants of respect for the federal government or the industry.
Their home, however, was full of the joy of parrots, chicken, geese and ducks. One of their three dogs, a black cocker spaniel with beautiful soft silk hair, slept at my feet both nights I stayed at their home.
Carol's garage-home was at the foot of a wooded mountain next to the Alsea River. This is in the general neighborhood where, in the late 1970s, a group of women, including Melyce Connelly, were having a high rate of miscarriages because of their exposure to dioxin-contaminated herbicides. Carol owned 20 acres of land forested with alder and oak. Five rivers run through her "Alder Hill Farm" in the Five Rivers Valley, surrounded by the Siuslaw National Forest.
The US Forest Service, according to Paul, subsidized a helicopter company to spray its forests – the same helicopter company that killed coca leaves in Peru and Mexico with the defoliant paraquat; the same company that worked for the CIA in Vietnam. Paul theorized that the Forest Service was also employing agents to spy on him and Carol van Strum.
Carol and her husband had a pretty good understanding of both the science and practice of environmental protection, all born of personal suffering. They defended nature and human rights, becoming models for resisting the outrageous behavior of corporations and local, state and federal governments.
That's why the reissuing, in 2014, of "A Bitter Fog" as an e-book by Carol Van Strum is very significant. Mary O'Brien, a responsible scientist and environmentalist, wrote the Foreword to Carol's e-book. O'Brien explained that, since "A Bitter Fog" was published in 1983, practically nothing has changed to make the lives of Americans better or to lessen the timber companies' and large farmers' environmental onslaught. This is especially true in Oregon where the polluters are even protected by state law.
"Now, in late 2014, it's the same, seemingly idyllic [Oregon] Coast Range and it's the same scene of babies, children, men, women, cats, chickens, and deer suddenly sickened or dead after herbicide soups have been dumped on them," O'Brien wrote.
Carol added a chapter to her 1983 book, essentially connecting a few important dots from 1983 to 2014. She talked about continuing industry and government malfeasance and cover-ups. But the focus of her riveting narrative is the short life of Melyce Connelly who died on July 4, 1989, at the age of thirty-two from brain, lung, and breast cancer. Carol accuses the timber companies and the government of murder - "The Murder of Melyce."
Melyce was simply minding her child, supporting him by raising vegetables in her small garden in the Five Rivers Valley. But a timber company poisoned Melyce: dumping poisons on her water supplies, house, and garden. All of her "young chicks and ducklings" died; her garlic fields and garden dried up; her "six-month old son developed persistent, bloody diarrhea."
Meanwhile, she heard the county commissioner on the radio denouncing marijuana growers for the 1979 banning of 2,4,5-T by EPA. Melyce was so outraged she drove fifty miles to the county office in Newport, Oregon. She confronted the commissioner with the frozen carcasses of her animals and the bloody diaper of her baby.
"Sir," she said, according to Carol van Strum, "you tell me those ducklings died from smoking… marijuana… this child has bloody shits day after day from smoking too much marijuana."
The commissioner apologized, but Melyce got sick and lost her life. Nothing changed.
The timber companies keep spraying toxic stuff because the EPA uses "risk assessment" in approving that stuff. The risk assessment classifies the risk of getting cancer from pesticides as "negligible."
"The manufacturers, users, and regulators of these poisons know… that some people will die when exposed, making them … guilty of premeditated murder…. As 'persons' under the law, corporations can be tried for murder… This will only happen when risk assessment's 'negligible' form of murder is no longer acceptable to society," Carol van Strum wrote.
In a metaphysical sense, "society" is responsible for this country's environmental tragedy. But most Americans don't even know what the EPA does, much less have an understanding of "negligible risk." The responsibility for environmental poisonings lies on the shoulders of very few people in this country. Americans never approved biocides, risk assessment or the fraudulent science behind "regulation."
Industry has captured the EPA though the offices of Congress and the White House. That's why the EPA is misusing science for legitimizing the use of pesticides and, often, the poisoning of innocents. The American people and, especially, environmental organizations, must wake-up to this tragic reality.
"A Bitter Fog" is an important book. Melyce Connelly keeps dying not merely in Oregon but all over the United States - and the world.


Popular posts from this blog

Pesticides Are Making Children Aggressive

Pesticides cause a multitude of adverse effects on humans. However, they are especially harmful to children. They may have something to do with the mass-shootings in schools all over America because some of them are neurotoxins. This means they affect and damage the central nervous system and the brain – of all animals, including humans.
Warren Porter, professor emeritus of zoology at the University of Wisconsin, conducted experiments with ground water – water drawn from the ground of farms with typical levels of pesticides and fertilizers. He chose farm water contaminated with the insecticide aldicarb, the herbicide atrazine, and nitrogen fertilizer. He tested that mixture on white mice and deer mice.
The concentrations of the fertilizer with each of the pesticides (aldicarb and atrazine) in the ground water were of the order of magnitude the Environmental Protection Agency says the chemicals cause “no unreasonable harm to man and the environment.” In other words, Porter put to the u…

The US Environmental Protection Agency at a Crossroad

The election of Donald Trump to the White House shows the extreme vulnerability of the idea of environmental protection in America. Trump appointed Scott Pruitt to EPA. Pruitt has been undermining the tenuous foundations of our relations with nature.
We struggled for several decades to secure the right to clean air, water and food – and give some protection to hundreds of endangered and threatened species. We have a long way for achieving these goals, but, at least, we now have a vision of where we are going.
This is important because the greatest crisis at the dawn of the twenty-first century is the steady deterioration of the natural world. The toxification of nature by chemicals, the extinction of species, and the epidemics of cancer and other diseases are serious manifestations of an industry out of control and a broken regulatory system.
For example, even infants are no longer safe. Monsanto’s weed killer glyphosate shortens the pregnancy of women. But this biocide does additiona…

The Specter of Genetic Catastrophe

I recently watched The Eugenic Crusade, PBS documentary on “improving” human evolution. Sir Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin, took two Greek words, well and born, and coined Eugenics. He reasoned natural evolution was a messy, violent, and lengthy process that could use some human ingenuity and science for the benefit of the ruling classes.
Eugenics in America
American scientists and philanthropists grasped on Eugenics as a saving valve from the  reality of too many poor whites, blacks and immigrants in America in early twentieth century. Eugenics, and the fake science behind it, led to the sterilization and imprisonment of thousands of undesirable: immigrants, Jews, the poor, the mentally and physically disabled, and the “morally delinquent.”
The Nazis in Germany learned from the eugenics experience of America. They exterminated millions of Jews and other “unfit.” The defeat of Germany in WWII saved humanity from the monster of breeding people like cattle.
However, the idea…