DPR AIMS FOR ZERO MAJOR INCIDENTS
SACRAMENTO – Department of Pesticide Regulation Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam today said DPR will “aim for zero” major pesticide illness incidents.
“Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2007 budget for DPR is the first step toward ending major pesticide incidents that result in serious injuries and environmental harm,” said Warmerdam. “With this support, we’ll aim for zero – no more major pesticide incidents on the farm or in urban settings.”
Under the Governor’s proposed budget, DPR will boost enforcement, revitalize a grant program to implement least-toxic pest management, and enhance pesticide safety. These initiatives are supported by more than $3 million in additional funding with no DPR fee increases.
“DPR is acknowledged as a national leader in pesticide management and regulation,” said Warmerdam. “This budget reaffirms our leadership. It will help us advance safer, more effective pest management that meets the Governor’s environmental and economic goals.”
The major incidents targeted by Warmerdam include cases in which multiple victims require medical treatment or hospitalization due to pesticide exposure. They may occur in urban settings – chlorine spills in swimming pools, exterminator errors, and the like – as well as on the farm, where pesticide violations such as drift injure workers or neighbors. Major incidents also include wildlife kills, crop damage, and other significant cases of environmental harm from pesticide misuse.
On average, about 50 such incidents occur a year, based on a decade of investigations and reports.
“Ultimately, all DPR regulatory efforts are focused on protecting our people and sustaining our environment,” said Warmerdam. “We will always strive to do more, but setting a goal to eliminate major incidents is a worthy place to begin. California’s people and their environment deserve this commitment by DPR.”
She also emphasized that the new goal for reducing incidents builds upon DPR’s existing “zero tolerance” policy. It mandates a monetary fine for any pesticide misuse case that results in an injury.
“This budget is good news for the vast majority of urban and agricultural businesses that use pesticides safely,” said Warmerdam. “First, it supports the concept of fair competition by strengthening enforcement efforts against bad actors. Second, it supports our friends who are working on pest management practices that have little or no impact on our environment.”
Under the Governor’s proposed budget, DPR will see its overall budget increase from about $65.9 million in 2006-07 to about $68.9 million in 2007-08 without any increase in fees. All DPR programs are supported by special funds, primarily through fees on pesticide sellers and related professionals. Stepped-up efforts to collect unpaid fees have recently increased DPR revenues. The budget increase will:
- Restart the DPR Alliance grant program with $780,000. Alliance grants were suspended by budget cuts in 2002, although previous grants had successfully launched statewide projects for reduced-risk pest management on the farm and in urban settings, in cooperation with major industry groups.
- Enhance DPR oversight of local enforcement by $667,000. DPR also proposes to boost funding for County Agricultural Commissioners, DPR’s local enforcement partners, by an additional $715,000 (for a total of about $18 million).
- Add $634,000 to expand DPR efforts that continuously review and reevaluate pesticide use practices to improve protection for workers and others.
- Provide $255,000 for the surface water monitoring program, and $149,000 to support reduced-risk pest management in schools and day care centers.
Warmerdam said these program enhancements – complemented by related, ongoing DPR initiatives – should help begin reducing pesticide incidents immediately. “The Governor’s budget proposals give DPR its strongest position in many years,” she said.
For example, DPR has already noted an increase in local actions since an Enforcement Response Initiative was launched in 2005 to invigorate statewide compliance with pesticide law. Later this year, DPR expects to announce new restrictions on fumigants to reduce drift and injuries, while helping the Department meet clean air mandates. And Alliance grant projects funded five years ago are still having an impact as growers continue to make progress on using less-toxic alternatives to traditional chemicals.
DPR is one of six departments and boards within the California Environmental Protection Agency.