PATEROS, Wash. -- Fruit transporters are dumping millions of pounds of apples across Washington, leaving them to rot under hot sun. State officials call the dumps "historic."
In Pateros, a hillside is covered with rows of Red Delicious apples. Trucks pull up several times a day, unloading thousands on top of sage brush and flowers.
Apple experts blame a combination of issues. This year, Washington growers produced the highest volume of apples on record. In addition, labor disputes at Washington ports left cargo sitting, sometimes for weeks.
The apples were unusable, even for processing.
"It smells like rancid fruit," Carol Pearson said.
Pearson runs a booth at the Pateros farmers market, near the SweetRiver Bakery where unwanted guests are taking over.
"It's a task to keep them out. You vacuum them up when you see them flying around," said owner Alvin Hymer.
Human trash as turned into a gourmet buffet treasure for fruit flies.
"There are thousands of them," Pearson said. "They're everywhere."
Though dumping apples is not new, this year's piles are more dramatic than ever before, and so are the financial hits.
The Washington State Tree Fruit Association estimates $95 million in lost sales due to apples that could not ship. Growers suffered further deficits from longer storage periods.