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Retirement Village Won't Escape Aerial Campaign

October 08, 1994|FRED ALVAREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A day-old skirmish over whether to exempt Leisure Village from next week's aerial assault on the Medfly ended Friday when state officials confirmed that the retirement community will remain in the spray zone.

At the urging of Leisure Village residents, Ventura County officials had asked the state whether it was necessary to bathe the east Camarillo community in the sticky combination of malathion and corn syrup.

Leisure Village residents worry that aerial application of the pesticide will harm elderly people with skin and lung ailments.

But state officials said Friday there would be no exemption for Leisure Village. When helicopters go up Wednesday night to do battle with the Medfly in a 16-square-mile eradication zone, the 3,500-member retirement community will not be spared.

"I now feel comfortable that they know all the facts about this area and that this decision was not made in a vacuum," said County Supervisor Maggie Kildee, who asked that state officials explain their rationale for including Leisure Village. "(The infestation) is spreading and we need to get on it."

The decision angered some in the retirement community, who say their concerns are being ignored.

"They want to protect the investment of growers," said 80-year-old Harry Becker, a 16-year Leisure Village resident. "They don't give a damn about the health of the people here."

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On Friday, members of the California Conservation Corps went door-to-door in the gated community, delivering official notification of the aerial treatment.

At the same time, Leisure Village's board of directors met Friday to finalize a meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday to discuss health concerns and other issues with state and county officials.

That anxiety elbowed its way to the forefront Thursday as state and county officials unveiled the strategy for killing off the fruit fly.

Alan Rosin, who lives with his ailing mother in Leisure Village, urged officials at a news conference Thursday to put the brakes on the eradication program until the health concerns were addressed.

But even when county officials agreed to look into the matter, Rosin said he held out no hope that Leisure Village would be exempted from aerial spraying.

"We still have no idea whether this is necessary," Rosin said Friday. "This is being done because growers want it done. It's a state administration that is running roughshod over everyone here."

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But Carla Agar, spokeswoman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, said there are good reasons for Leisure Village being included in the eradication zone.

Drawing on past experience, state agricultural officials determined that Leisure Village is close enough to the citrus orchard where the Medflies have been found that it needs to sprayed, Agar said.

In addition, she said the retirement community has back-yard fruit in which the Medfly can lay eggs. And she emphasized that health risks are minimal if people take precautions.

Some at Leisure Village support the eradication program.

"I think it should be done to protect this industry," said Moe Kadish, 80. "We have so much at stake."

And in other areas of the city, civic leaders and homeowners say there is little choice but to spray the area to kill off the fruit-ravaging pests.

"I would hope that we wouldn't have to spray, but I have to go with the people who are paid to do this, and they say spray," Mayor Ken Gose said. "They're the experts. They know more about it than anybody else."

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Added Bill Torrence, president of the Ventura County League of Homeowners and a Camarillo Springs resident: "This whole county is in this together. We've got a problem here with this fruit fly, and we better eradicate it and we better eradicate it damn soon."

Still, some Leisure Village residents are extremely worried about the aerial assault and its effects on those whose health is fragile.

Betty Rosin, the 84-year-old mother of Alan Rosin, said she already needs to use an inhaler every three to four hours to ease her asthma.

"I can't breathe already," she said. "The last thing I need is malathion dropped on top of me."

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