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Proposed rules for pesticide use near schools diluted

Greta Mart/KCBX
Salines Valley fields.

This week the state released revisions to its rules for pesticide use near schools, and the revisions are not what many residents in the Salinas Valley were hoping for. In December, hundreds of Salinas parents, health workers and educators attended a four-hour hearing to urge the state’s pesticide regulator to change the rules. 

Over 65 members of the public spoke, many asking for a one-mile mandatory buffer between school campuses and spraying on agricultural fields. The proposed rules would affect thousands of public facilities, licensed daycare centers, and farms. 

Instead, the Department of Pesticide Regulation - or DPR - is proposing a ban on spraying from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, within a quarter mile of the schools.

At the December Salinas hearing, over a dozen growers also attended, concerned about another proposed rule that they would have to notify school administrators 48 hours in advance of any planned application.

That 48-hour notice period has been dropped from the statewide revisions. Monterey County is working on its own pilot program that is intended to provide schools with more information about pesticide applications nearby.

DPR spokesperson Charlotte Fadipe said the public comment period last year led to the revisions.

"We heard from people on all kinds of issues, but certainly one of the issues that seemed to be giving people a lot of heartburn was our idea of notifying schools 48 hours before some pesticides are being used,” Fadipe said.

In response to the proposed revisions, a spokesperson for Californians for Pesticide Reform said the DPR is weakening the rules and ignoring existing loopholes.

“With only part-time protections in place, children and families attending sporting events and other extracurricular activities will still be exposed to pesticides used on nearby fields that scientists have linked to cancer, reproductive harm and brain damage," Mark Weller, a member of Californians for Pesticide Reform said. “Schools will also lose the proposed right to be notified when hazardous agricultural pesticides are used on farms next door.”

Members of the Pesticide Action Network said while the new rules are a step in the right direction, the group wants a total ban within a mile of the schools.

The state is taking public comment on the revisions through April 4, 2017.

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