A West Virginia father is furious after hundreds of hard pellets fell from the sky, raining down on his children and his organic farm.
Neal Laferriere, owner of Blackberry Botanicals, was harvesting ginseng with his two children when a helicopter passed overhead. Laferriere’s daughter, Aislinn, told 59 News that she “looked up immediately because it sounded like it was flying really really low.” Laferriere’s children reported that the helicopter was carrying something like a bucket. A few seconds later an unknown substance began falling on them.
“It felt like people were throwing little pebbles at you,” Laferriere’s daughter, Allycia, told 59 News. “It hurt,” Aislinn added. Both children were unexpectedly hit in the face by the falling pellets.
Laferriere’s property is adjacent to the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) making the presence of helicopters and other machinery not unusual. The MVP will carry natural gas and is slated to run from Northern West Virginia through Southern Virginia.
According to ProPublica, in August of this year, work on the pipeline was halted “after a federal appeals court ruled that two federal agencies had neglected to follow important environmental protections when they approved the project.” The U.S. Forest Service was suddenly, and suspiciously, no longer concerned about the potential harm from soil erosion to rivers, streams, and aquatic life.
It turns out, the pellets were meant to be dropped near the path of the MVP, not over a quarter mile way on Laferriere’s property. According to an EPA spill report, the pellets that fell on Laferriere, his children, and his organic farm are a man made material called EarthGuard EDGE, used to prevent erosion and increase soil stabilization. While EarthGuard EDGE purports to be non-toxic and biodegradable, it is not meant for organic farming. According to that same report, the pellets were dropped two more times on Blackberry Botanicals, covering nearly three quarters of the entire farm.
Laferriere has enquired about potential clean-up options but was told “No, there is absolutely nothing you can do to clean this up.” The presence of EarthGuard at Blackberry Botanicals may threaten the farm’s organic certification and the Laferriere’s livelihood. The farm was certified organic just this year.
“Being an organic farm, having a substance dumped on your property puts you at risk of losing your organic certification,” Laferriere said.
“It just feels like we’ve been steamrolled, abused. Like they just don’t care,” Laferriere told WVVA. Inspectors from the pipeline company did not visit Laferriere’s property until 10 days after the incident.
Mountain Valley Pipeline released the following statement in response to the accident:
“We are aware of this unfortunate incident and have initiated additional precautionary measures to prevent these types of issues from happening in the future. We will work directly with the landowner to address his issues and concerns related to this incident.”