This was the next step on our pesticide drift project

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Engagement Reporter Claire Hettinger displays a pesticide drift sensor at a community conversation about pesticide drift on Tuesday, November 5, 2019. photo by Darrell Hoemann/The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

Claire Hettinger is the 2019 Illinois Humanities Engagement Fellow for the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. Have a story idea, question or tip? Reach her at claire.hettinger@investigatemidwest.org.

Last week, we met with 25 people from various industries including scientists from the University of Illinois, local public health officials, the Champaign County Farm Bureau and environmental groups to discuss findings from our ongoing pesticide sensor project.

The group met at the Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department to give input on our project.

In May 2018, we launched our drift sensor project.

Over the past 18 months, we've measured pesticide drift in five locations - two private homes, two schools and a bedroom community near Champaign, Illinois.

Our goal for this project was to learn more about what chemicals, if any, might be drifting from corn and soybean fields into nearby backyards, school grounds and parks.

Engagement Reporter Claire Hettinger speaks at a community conversation about pesticide drift on Tuesday, November 5, 2019. photo by Darrell Hoemann/The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

We will share our results in an upcoming story that includes interviews with people from the event, as well as other experts, parents, residents and pesticide applicators in the communities that hosted the samplers.

The purpose of last week’s conversation was to share the data we gathered and get feedback from experts and interested groups. We hope to use input from those who attended the event to write a comprehensive story that explains what our results mean for the community.

Location of a pesticide drift sensor at a household east of Sidney on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. photo by Darrell Hoemann/The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

We split-up the big discussion into small discussion groups and asked them the following four questions:

  • What stood out to you the most about this project?
  • What concerns you?
  • What other things do we need to consider?
  • What should be our next steps?

Each group reported back to us with their responses.

People asked questions about the senors we used and how they work, they asked about the height of sensors and if we measured wind speeds, and they also asked why the Illinois Department of Agriculture has not done this research themselves.

They also asked if the pesticides we found can get into the water supply and how it will impact their health over long periods of time.

The groups also gave advice for potential future projects such as streamlining sensor heights, measuring wind speeds and temperature and using sensors that can detect the amount of pesticide found at each site.

We will include these comments, concerns and the other topics addressed at the event in the story. We are in the last stages of reporting for this story, and we aim to have it published by the end of the year.

If you are affected by this issue, please share your experience with us by submitting this form.

Executive Director Pam Dempsey speaks at a community conversation about pesticide drift on Tuesday, November 5, 2019. photo by Darrell Hoemann/The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

Our stories on this topic:
This story cost us $10,000 and we’re not done yet

We’re partnering with agricultural communities to measure pesticide drift

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Claire Hettinger is the 2019 Illinois Humanities Engagement Fellow for the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. Have a story idea, question or tip? Reach her at claire.hettinger@investigatemidwest.org.