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Tarp Handout Draws Heroes, Entrepreneurs : Camarillo: Kindness and capitalism meet as residents line up for plastic covers to protect their cars and outdoor furniture. All in all, the mood is tranquil.


Some residents saw it as a time to help. Others seized the moment to try to make a little extra cash. And a few couldn't pass up the chance to argue about the big issue of the day.


Anticipating the first night of aerial malathion spraying, hundreds of Camarillo and Somis residents lined up for free plastic covers to protect their cars and patio furniture.

The supplies ran short at times during the day until relief trucks arrived. A temper or two flared occasionally. But there were also quiet acts of kindness.

Mike Conroy, a Camarillo resident and the owner of Conroy Farms, was among the battlefield heroes on the first day of what turned out to be a relatively tranquil opening of Camarillo's war against the Medfly.

Conroy was helping pass out free tarps near Dos Caminos Plaza on Wednesday when he starting chatting with Chris Baker, a kindergarten teacher worried about protecting the picnic tables at Carden School in Camarillo.

Later in the afternoon, Conroy dispatched his farm supervisor to deliver a 13-foot-wide roll of plastic sheeting to the private, nondenominational school.

"He brought in one of those big rolls of plastic, and said to give them a call if we needed more," said Beverly Plunkett, the school's director.

Plunkett said the school now should have enough plastic to cover the picnic tables, jungle gym and sandlot play areas.

"It was very, very nice of them."

As the day passed, there were occasional moments of friction.

Richard Smith of Somis was drawn into a debate while waiting in line for the free plastic covers. And he decided he was not about to allow a woman collecting signatures against aerial spraying to spread what he considered to be misinformation.

"I said, 'You like to eat, don't you?' " he said.

"She said, she liked to live, too."

"It went along those lines and whatever she said, I rebuffed her," the Somis resident recounted.

Smith added that he uses pesticides on his own avocado trees.

"I spray with a short-sleeved shirt on. I can feel the mist in my face and my arms. I never had any ill effects," he said.

In addition to the debate over malathion, there was some controversy over whether local capitalists ought to be making a profit out of the agricultural crisis.

Seizing on the intermittent shortages of plastic covers in the area, a pair of fast-moving entrepreneurs started out early selling plastic tarps from the back of pickup trucks--until being shooed off by city workers.

"We paid $1.99 apiece for them and we were selling them for $3 apiece. A lot of stores have more of a markup than that," said Bret Atiyeh of Camarillo. "We drove out of town to get them. I felt we were providing a service."

Seeing the opportunity for a quick profit, Atiyeh said he and a friend, David Goodman of Camarillo, loaded up on the plastic tarps and tape at hardware stores in neighboring cities.

"We really did it to help people and have a little bit of an entrepreneurial spirit," said Goodman, a candidate for the Port Hueneme City Council.

He said he shut down after being instructed not to sell the tarps on city property and spent the rest of the day helping people tape plastic coverings over their cars.

Atiyeh said he was startled when city officials informed him that he could not sell anything out of his car.

"Nobody got angry at me," Atiyeh said. "A lot of people thanked me because they didn't have to wait in line. It wasn't like we were selling batteries after the earthquake for six bucks apiece."

Gregory Brose, supervisor of the district attorney's consumer protection division, said such a sale could violate a county ordinance passed shortly after the Jan. 17 earthquake to discourage price gouging during disasters.

But Brose said his office would investigate such a matter only if there were complaints from residents who believe they fell victim to prices inflated at least 10% above normal retail.

Furthermore, he said, the county's ordinance only covers unincorporated areas of the county and has no force within the city limits of Camarillo, which he believes has no such price-gouging law.

What to Do State and federal agencies report that malathion has been studied extensively, and there is no evidence that it causes cancer, birth defects, nerve damage, eye damage or cumulative injury. But residents are cautioned to avoid exposure.

Officials also recommend that the following precautions be taken after spraying:

* If in contact with spray, wash residues from skin and clothing with soap and water.

* Do not leave laundry outdoors when spraying is scheduled. If laundry is soiled, rewash before wearing.

* If your car is outside during spraying, wash it the next day to prevent paint damage.

* Rinse plastic skylights and awnings the day after spraying to prevent permanent stains.

* Cover fish ponds before spraying and uncover shortly after to minimize water contamination while avoiding oxygen depletion.

* After an area has been sprayed, wash outdoor eating areas, playground equipment and objects such as toys and pet food dishes that may have been outside during spraying.

* Avoid harvesting home-grown fruits and vegetables for three days after spraying.

* Rinse all fresh fruits and vegetables with water before cooking or eating them, just as you should with store-bought items.

Additional information about malathion is available by calling (800) 491-1899.

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