Not strong enough, opponents say
WATSONVILLE — The California Department of Pesticide Regulation on Thursday released a revised set of regulations for the use of agricultural pesticides near schools, a plan that drew scorn from pesticide activists even as DPR officials praised it as one of the country’s best.
Under the proposal, most pesticides are banned from within a quarter-mile of public K-12 schools and child daycare facilities from Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
While farmers are still required to notify schools and county agricultural commissioners annually about the pesticides they expect to use, the DPR struck a requirement that they do so within 48 hours of application.
That was troubling for people who work and live near farm fields and depend on such notices.
“In Santa Cruz County, we’ve had a five-day notification for quite some time and it has worked well,” said Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers president Francisco Rodriguez. “We see it as a way by which communities, schools and agricultural interests can sit down and have further dialogue about what’s in the best interest of everybody — students first and foremost. The community around the schools wants to know what’s being applied.”
The proposed regulation will affect about 3,500 public K-12 schools and licensed child day care facilities and involve an estimated 2,500 growers in California. While many counties in California have varying requirements for notification of certain pesticide applications near schools, the proposed regulation would be the first statewide standard.
“We believe this regulation will provide Californians with probably the most robust protection in the nation for schoolchildren when agricultural pesticides are applied near their school,” said Brian Leahy, director of DPR. “It simply makes it more difficult to create an unacceptable pesticide hazard at a school site.”
State officials say that the rules would provide an extra measure of protection to public K-12 school sites and licensed child day care facilities from the risk of short-term pesticide exposure.
But opponents say that is part of the problem.
According to Californians for Pesticide Reform (CPR), the proposed rules ignore findings that many pesticides persist in the air for days or even weeks, posing the threat of long-term exposure around agricultural fields.
“Repeated exposures to low-level pesticides contribute to chronic negative health effects,” said California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Karen Smith at a hearing last week.
CPR co-director Sarah Aird said her organization has pushed DPR for years to establish rules that reduce pesticide exposure at school.
“So it's outrageous to hear DPR walk away from their commitment to protect kids in California's most impacted communities,” Aird said.
DPR issued the original proposal in September 2016, after the department held a series of public workshops in five locations around the state. Thursday’s regulations issued this week came after a public input period, which included three formal hearings and ended in December.
The DPR is again inviting the public to comment on the revisions during a 15-day period through April 4. If the DPR decides more changes are needed, it would make revisions and possibly return for another public input period.
The proposed regulation would then go to the California Office of Administrative Law for review, and then to the Secretary of State to be recorded into the state Code of Regulations.
The regulation is anticipated to become effective Jan. 1, 2018.
For information, visit tinyurl.com/mg6xdk2.
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