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Organic farmers say known carcinogen found in pellets dropped in MVP construction

(Greenville) In September of 2018 suspicious pellets rained down on an organic farm near the path for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Now, those pellets have been found to contain a cancer causing chemical- and are continuing to be dropped in Monroe County.

Organic farmers near the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline say suspicious pellets dropped from a helicopter in the sky are ruining their livelihood.

Beth and Neal Laferriere own Blackberry Springs Farm. Beth said of the pellets, “It has effectively decimated our business.”

According to an EPA spill report, the pellets are Earth Guard, a product to prevent erosion and provide soil stabilization. Blackberry Springs Farm is adjacent to a path cleared for the pipeline. The pellets fell over a quarter of a mile away from the pipeline path, contaminating the organic certified farm. Beth said,“Our organic certification is destroyed.”

According to the manufacturer’s GHS sheet, the pellets were found to contain a chemical called acrylamide. The FDA says acrylamide is a known animal carcinogen and human neurotoxicant, which means it can cause cancer and birth defects. Neal said of the chemical, “It’s in our water system.”

Complaints were sent to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and to Mountain Valley Pipeline, but errant pellet droppings are happening again. This time to organic farms and streams in Monroe County
The path for the Mountain Valley Pipeline cuts through Maury Johnston’s family farm. He said of the pellet drops, “There’s something like five-thousand acres in Monroe County that are organic. And we love our pristine county. And they’re putting people’s livelihoods at risk.”

Johnston has been monitoring construction activity around the pipeline closely. He says he’s logged thousands of pages of complaints with the WVDEP, many of which he shared with WVVA. Johnston said the Mountain Valley Pipeline has received 22 notices of violation. WVVA reached out to the WVDEP for confirmation and is awaiting a response. Johnston claimed that even with the damage, “There have been no fines issued. No stop work orders or nothing.”

For now property owners near the pipeline are on high alert, waiting for the next pellet to drop. Neal said, “Nobody is willing to do anything when it comes to holding MVP accountable, and it’s unfortunate. What can we do as citizens to hold them accountable? We’re just the small guy.”

At the time of this reporting the Mountain Valley Pipeline could not be reached for comment. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection was reached and has not commented at the time of this reporting.

Haley Brown

Multimedia Journalist

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