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Deaths of 90 cows in W.Va. likely accidental, officials say

January 10, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The deaths of approximately 90 cattle on a farm off U.S. 340 south of Charles Town does not appear to be an act of terrorism, but might have been the result of an accidental poisoning or an isolated criminal act, state officials said.

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture was notified of the cattle deaths Dec. 20 and state and federal officials started a cooperative investigation into the deaths, according to a news release from the state Department of Agriculture.

The investigation revealed that Aztec, a pesticide used to protect corn crops from insects, was put into a feeder that was supposed to contain mineral supplements, according to the release.

Although the packaging of Aztec and the mineral supplement are different, the products look similar, the release said.

"Given the current threats to our nation and the suspicious nature of the deaths, it would have been irresponsible of me not to consider the possibility of agroterrorism," said Gus R. Douglass, the state Commissioner of Agriculture.

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"However, the ongoing investigations point toward accidental poisoning, or an isolated intentional criminal act. There is no evidence at all of a terror-related act," Douglass said.

The exact location of the farm and the owner of the property were not available Tuesday.

No other livestock deaths have been reported, and extensive testing by state and federal officials showed the mineral supplement is safe and water supplies on the farm are not contaminated, the release said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also said that dead cattle that were taken to a "rendering" plant in Virginia posed no threat to human or animal health, the release said.

West Virginia State Police have been assisting in the investigation, said Sgt. E.D. Anderson, who works in the state police detachment in Jefferson County.

Anderson said Tuesday that some interviews have been conducted, but the results of the interviews have not indicated anything other than an accidental death of the animals.

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