Schools, hospitals and day-care centers don't need two days of written notice before their farmer neighbors spray dangerous pesticides.
OLYMPIA, Wash. Schools, hospitals and day-care centers don't need two days of written notice before their farmer neighbors spray dangerous pesticides, the state agriculture director has decided.
The decision is a victory for growers -- particularly orchardists -- who argued the proposal was burdensome and unnecessary.
Environmental and farm worker advocates criticized the ruling, saying the state's enforcement of current pesticide regulations is weak.
"If the Department of Agriculture can't even take this baby step forward, what can they do to protect health?" said Carol Dansereau, director of the nonprofit Farm Worker Pesticide Project.
The proposed rule would have required growers to give written notice to schools, nursing homes, hospitals and adult or child day-care centers within a half-mile of their farms at least 48 hours before applying Category I pesticides, which are considered dangerous or poisonous.
The state Department of Agriculture proposed the rule after farm worker advocates and public health officials raised alarms about the potential for residents to inhale airborne chemicals.
After three years of meetings, Director Valoria Loveland decided Friday to withdraw the proposed rule.
In a statement, Loveland said there was too much disagreement about the proposal and not enough interest from schools and other entities that would have received pesticide notices.
"The environmental community believed this rule didn't go far enough, while growers thought it created unnecessary regulation when it is already illegal to allow drift of these pesticides," Loveland said.
Loveland also said those who would get written notices were unsure of what to do with the information.
She said the agency will consider implementing the proposal as a smaller-scale pilot project somewhere in the state, but did not provide any details.
Heather Hansen, director of the grower group Washington Friends of Farms and Forests, said the proposal would have been too difficult to implement.
State and federal laws already regulate pesticide drift, and there have been few recent documented cases of drifting pesticides affecting school children in the state, she said.
"We think that good communication in a friendly way will probably get accomplished more, faster, than rules and regulations," Hansen said.
Source: Associated Press