Lake Chelan: tons of soil deemed very toxic due to historical Orchard pesticides

Define “very toxic”. Ok, let’s do that. Let’s take a look at what the Chelan apple growers don’t want to talk about.


From about 1900 to 1950 the Manson area of Lake Chelan was an apple mecca. Sadly, the apple growers of this time widely used Lead Arsenate as a pesticide to control insect issues. It contaminated the soil badly. That was a long time ago, right? Wrong. Lead Arsenate–exactly what it sounds like: lead and arsenic, sticks around in the soil for decades.

The soil in the Manson area of Lake Chelan is so contaminated that the Washington State Department of Ecology initiated an in-depth soil contamination study for the area. What they found wasn’t exactly comforting. They took aerial maps from 1947 and traced out where they thought all the orchards were, and created a kind of Lead & Arsenic contamination map.

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You can see the full DOE report here:

Sheesh, look at that map! There’s my favorite vacation spotWapato Point, and Hyacinth Road, Roses Lake, Wapato Lake, and a whole lotta million dollar vacation homes!

The problem is so bad, they replaced the soil at the Manson Elemenary School to protect children’s health.

You know this problem is really bad when they have to scrape the playground soil from the local Manson Elementary School and replace it with fresh non-Arsenic and non-Lead tainted soil. In fact the Washington State Department of Ecology did its own official consultation report on the Manson Elementary soil contamination. There is a huge problem area-wide with Arsenic and Lead contamination on the school playground:

Apparently Manson isn’t the only school that is affected. Lake Chelan’s school district is also contaminated! Here is what the DOE recently had to say about the Lead Arsenateimpact, and the Toxic Cleanup site of the Lake Chelan school district’s recreational fields:


“Due to their chemical structure, lead and arsenic tend to bond with soil particles and often remain at or near ground surface level for decades, creating an exposure pathway through inhalation and/or ingestion.

Although lead and arsenic are naturally occurring elements, elevated concentrations have been proven to have a negative impact on human health. Young children are generally more susceptible than adults, which is why Ecology has focused remediation efforts on schools.”


The sad thing is, the apple growers are still using toxic chemicals to this day. They’re just using different ones like chlorpyrifos. They use giant spray machines to blast chlorpyrifos and other nasty things all over the trees. This, of course, can drift to neighbors and onto the general public. You can smell it in the air often times in Lake Chelan between April and August.


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