UFW holds demonstration after recent hazmat incidents involving over 130 workers

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Two dozen UFW members marched outside of the Fresno County Ag Commissioner's Office. They claim local ag commissioners aren't doing enough to investigate two incidents where farm laborers were exposed to pesticides.

"The ag commissioner has a responsibility, but we believe they have an inherent bias," said UFW Secretary-Treasurer Armando Elenes. "An inherent bias because not only are they charged with promoting agriculture but here they are supposedly investigating pesticide incidents so who are they really representing?"

Fresno County Assistant Ag Commissioner Rusty Lantsberger says worker protection goes hand in hand with enforcing pesticide laws.

"We're one family. We are a regulatory agency," he said. "We have a robust pesticide enforcement program and we are out and we are looking for violations and we are also making sure that the protocols and regulations are followed."

Action News learned the Holland Nut Company was spraying Zylo insecticide and Nealta miticide around an orchard Thursday morning when workers picking nectarines in a neighboring orchard for the Gerawan company complained of a strong smell.

Seventeen people were exposed to the pesticides. Three people were taken to the hospital to be treated.

A company statement indicated, "Gerawan had not been given prior notice of the spraying."

The Holland Nut company did not wish to comment, but ag officials are looking into whether crews were properly trained and whether any violations were committed.

"So the pesticide labeling that are on the labels, or in, they're in violation of any of the regulations that involve the applications and notification of workers," Lantsberger said.

A second incident occurred over a week ago in Dinuba.

Addilene Solorio was among 63 workers in a grape vineyard exposed to a pesticide identified as Hexythiazox.

"On the other side, across the street from where we were working there was a man who was spraying all of the pesticides where we were working," she said.

Dozens of workers had to be decontaminated. Three people were taken to the hospital.

The marchers want to draw more attention to these incidents to ensure they are not repeated.
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