[Ventura County] Bucking Grand Jury Report | County Says Air Monitoring Role of State

On Tuesday, Nov. 5, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted to send a recommendation to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) to increase monitoring in the county for airborne pesticides, prompted by a grand jury report dated April 25, 2019, entitled, “Pesticide Monitoring Near Schools and Day-Care Centers.”

The supervisors’ action, however, falls short of the recommendation of the grand jury, which cited the fact that there is one pesticide monitoring site in the county, and therefore “recommends the establishment of additional monitoring facilities for detecting pesticide and fumigant overspray and drift.” The grand jury noted that an additional monitor would help “reassure the public regarding the safety of agricultural activities in proximity to day-care and school sites.”

The existing monitoring site is located at Rio Mesa High School in Oxnard.

The report also cited various findings related to impacts of pesticide and other agricultural chemicals. “The [Ventura County agricultural] industry uses toxic fumigants and pesticides to control soil pests for most of its fruit and vegetable crops, as well as nursery plants . . . These fumigants and pesticides present risks to the health of farmworkers and to those in proximity to agricultural activities, including people at schools and daycare centers,” stated the grand jury report. It cites a 2014 study linking the impaired mental development of children with early exposure to organophosphate pesticides. 

The report also noted “that the Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner (VCAC) and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) . . . [have] been effective in reducing exposure of students and faculty in campuses adjacent to agricultural use of pesticides, herbicides and fumigants.”

But both the County CEO and VCAC rejected that recommendation in their written responses.

“The recommendation will not be implemented because it is not warranted or is not reasonable at this time,” stated the response letter dated Nov. 5, signed by Michael Powers, Ventura County CEO. “It is our recommendation that any change or expansion of the [Air Monitoring Network] AMN is, and should remain, the responsibility of the state California.”

“While intuitively is seems that ‘more’ sampling stations provide more information and potentially greater assurance of safety, ‘more’ is not always better,” stated Agricultural Commissioner Ed Williams, in a letter dated July 16, 2019, responding to the report.

Both Williams and Powers cited the 2017 expansion of the CDPR’s Air Monitoring Network “to sample for 31 pesticides and five pesticide breakdown products in eight communities around California.” They state that the CDPR studied the “best placement and configuration of testing stations.” They referred to the 2018 sample results, released in July, 2019 “that results from the monitor, released found only 8 of 36 chemicals monitored were detected at any level, and only 3 were detected at quantifiable levels. Levels for these 3 were well below acute or sub-chronic health risk levels.”

November 6, 2019

Ventura County Reporter

By Kimberly Rivers

County: