(Beyond Pesticides, June 12, 2009) An independent review is challenging government noncomplicance with a 1998 Marin County, California law that prohibits the use of certain highly toxic pesticides by any department. The research by an independent citizen has uncovered dozens of violations of the county’s own law until as recently as 2007. Local groups have called for an investigation by the Board of Supervisors, as well as more protective wording put into a revision of the county’s pesticide policy.
The county law states that no department may use “any ingredient classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a human carcinogen, probable human carcinogen, possible human carcinogen, reproductive toxin, or developmental toxin.” According to a report by Corte Madera resident Paul Apfel, county employees violated that law at least 92 times between 1999 and 2007, using thousands of gallons of chemicals.
“We have verified that the county has used a class of chemicals that the IPM [Integrated Pest Management] ordinance identifies should only be used under the exemption process,” said County Administrator Matthew Hymel. “Part of the confusion is that these chemicals were not on the state list but they were on the EPA list of possible carcinogens.” Fred Crowder, the county’s deputy agricultural commissioner, said he recommended pesticides based on the California Proposition 65 list, rather than EPA’s larger list of carcinogens. While Mr. Crowder admitted his mistake, he also tried to justify it by saying they are “also available at the local garden store and there is nothing there that is not available to the public.” (To see which pesticides have been linked to carcinogenic, reproductive, and developmental effects, visit the Pesticide Gateway.)
“It shouldn’t have been done and the citizens of Marin are entitled to a public hearing on this,” Mr. Apfel said. “It can’t be swept under the rug. It was the citizens who were wronged.”
“I want to find out what happened with the misreporting to us about what was used and why the process wasn’t followed,” Supervisor Susan Adams said. “The error was not because we sprayed illegal pesticides but we didn’t follow the process in the ordinance to allow that use.”
Local environmental and health activists disagreed with the county’s assessment of the violation. “The county law states that a limited use exemption is granted on an emergency basis,” said Carolyn Cohen of Mothers of Marin Against the Spray. “That Does not mean every month, except for the rainy season, for 10 years. That’s completely inappropriate.”
A review of the updated IPM ordinance is tentatively scheduled for June 23. For more information on organizing in your community to reduce pesticide use, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Tools for Change page.