“Every summer for the past three years, the phones have been ringing like crazy in the Office of the Indiana State Chemist. Farmers and homeowners were calling, complaining that their soybean fields or tomato plants looked sick, with curled-up leaves. They suspected pesticides from nearby farms — a kind of chemical hit-and-run.
It was up to investigators like Andy Roth to find the true culprit.
“It's sort of a mad rush at the beginning,” he says. “You rush out, you do the field work, you take the pictures, you take the samples, you get them back here” to the office's forensic laboratory, where soil and plant tissue can be tested for pesticide residues.
The lab staff also was overwhelmed. “The first issue was we quickly reached our maximum storage capacity,” says Ping Wan, the lab supervisor. They had to buy more freezers to store the evidence. “There is not an inch of wall space left,” Wan says, gesturing toward freezers that line one side of the lab.”