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Oxnard Chemical Firm Honored for Environmental Efforts


Trash and recycling containers scattered throughout the AgRx pesticide and fertilizer facility in Oxnard tell part of the story.

So does the 15,000-square-foot expanse of concrete flooring, covered with chemical-resistant coating and surrounded by a retaining wall, that holds the AgRx chemical tanks.

"Our primary concern with our facility is making it safe for our employees and as non-intrusive to the environment as possible," said Joe Burdullis, chief financial officer and a major shareholder in the AgRx chemical retail operation. "All runoff is contained and everything is recycled, if possible."

These environmentally conscious business practices recently earned AgRx the 1996 National Environmental Respect Award from Dealer Progress magazine, a trade publication for fertilizer and agricultural chemical retailers.

The company also will receive an award from the city of Oxnard's Wastewatch Award Program. AgRx will be one of 10 businesses and institutions receiving the environmental awareness recognition tonight at the Oxnard City Council meeting.

Other Oxnard Wastewatch winners include the Oxnard Rescue Mission, Jones Intercable, St. John's Regional Medical Center, the Esplanade Shopping Center, Merchant's Home Delivery Service, Oxnard Factory Outlet, Procter & Gamble Paper Products Co., South Coast Area Transit and the Harrington Family Center at Harrington Elementary School.

AgRx, with additional locations in Somis, Fillmore and Goleta, retails pesticides and fertilizer to the area's agricultural community, servicing about 175 different kinds of crops.

The company was formed in 1993 by the merger of three longtime competing Ventura County agricultural chemical firms.

The Joseph Powers Co., founded in 1934; California Ag Resources, founded in 1954; and Pacific Pest Control, founded in 1966, joined forces to better deal with California's environmental regulations for commercial agriculture and to improve their position in the industry, Burdullis said.

In July 1995, after conducting business out of three locations since the merger, the company moved its main facility into the former GTE building on a five-acre site at 751 S. Rose Ave.

Upon moving into and renovating the building, Burdullis said, the company made a concerted effort to expand its environmental practices.

"Moving into the new location afforded us the opportunity of starting with an empty easel. We wanted to design an environmentally friendly facility," Burdullis said. "We've reduced our waste 60% since we moved in. We recycle our cardboard, our waste oil and the plastic containers our crops come in."

To enter the Dealer Progress award program, AgRx officials had to answer 100 questions covering such topics as employee safety issues, pesticide containment and procedures for mixing, loading and processing fertilizer and crop protection chemicals.

They also fielded questions on emergency-response procedures and the importance of environmentalism. About 400 businesses nationwide applied for the award.

"AgRx deals with a lot of different kinds of products and a lot of different kinds of crops," said Elliot Nowels, publisher of Dealer Progress. "The people there have exhibited a great deal of high expertise. They have a lot of concern for the community and an [environmental] spirit."

The magazine introduced its awards program in 1990 in response to stricter environmental regulations, Nowels said.

"There were a lot of retailers that serve farmers and ranchers that were somewhat daunted by the whole environmental movement. It was kind of scary if you were an agricultural chemical retailer," he said. "We knew there was improvement to be made across the country, but we also knew that many of these guys were environmentalists themselves and were doing a great job. We wanted to recognize them."

Burdullis said environmentalism exists throughout the industry.

"I think our industry is a lot more aware of the environment than the public gives us credit for," he said. "We are more environmentally conscious than most industries because we have to reuse the environment every year. It's not something that we can deplete."

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