By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Company trying to trace contaminated compost

Marcus Larson / News-Register
Marcus Larson / News-Register Tomato starts grown for the Master GArdener sale struggle in problem soil.

The vendor, E.B. Stone Organics, maker of Edna’s Best Potting Soil, said it has since eliminated all contaminated product from its supply line and is offering to replace problem bags bought earlier. It is also offering compensation for damaged plants.

In Yamhill County, the brand is carried at Kraemer’s Nursery and Pet. Chris Totten, vice president of sales and marketing at E.B. Stone, said three customers had returned bags to Kraemer’s so far.

Nursery owner Kim Kraemer praised the Stone response.

“That company was so above and beyond taking care of stuff,” she said. “They were on the phone with us, we were talking to the president of the company, and they had a truck here the same day.

“All of our product was off the shelves and replaced that same day. That company has been amazing.”

Customers have generally been understanding, Kraemer said, and the problem does not seem to have affected the popularity of the potting soil.

“It seems to be very well received. The customers, even with the affected problem, have said good things about the product. They have purchased new bags of the product.”

Totten said the contaminated bags appear to be from a batch of soil mixed in late February and shipped in March. Bags would have been purchased between March 19 and April 30, he said.

“We had about three dealers who had consumers who were affected, and one dealer had some of his own crops affected,” he said.

Tests the company had done in Portland confirmed the potting soil was contaminated with Clopyralid, a broadleaf herbicide used on grass hay crops, grains and Christmas trees. Totten said the company suspects it was introduced in manure the company gets from horse farms in Clackamas County.

The Polk County Master Gardeners organization was among the victims. It purchased a large number of bags from a dealer in Dallas for plants it was raising for an annual sale.

Its Yamhill County Master Gardeners counterpart helped out by donating flats of plants left over from its own April sale.

E.B. Stone has been using composted horse manure for the past four years, Totten said, and recently added some new suppliers.

He said purchasers of hay or other feed products on which herbicides have been used are supposed to be notified, because the herbicides can end up in manure mixed in compost. But in this case, he said, something apparently broke down in the system.

Totten said the herbicide in question can damage or kill solanum vegetables, including potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants; legumes, including peas and beans; plus sunflowers, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, asters, carnations and lupines. It is not likely to damage basil or broccoli, he said.

In 2002, Clopyralid in compost caused problems in both Washington and Oregon, leading to a flurry of new regulations. Washington banned it from use on lawns, to try to keep it out of composting facilities that collect yard debris, while Oregon added new restrictions and began conducting tests at composting facilities.

However, it is still used in some agricultural applications. That can lead to problems, because it persists in soil for months and withstands the composting process.

Since discovering the contamination, Totten said, “I’ve gotten to be more of an expert than I ever cared to be.”

He said, “We’re trying to figure out who it came from, and then figure it out from there.

We will also talk to our prior suppliers to find out what procedures they have in place to make sure they are notified if it is used in hay or straw. If it has been used, we don’t want the manure.”

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