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Ventura County

Rancher Agrees to Settlement Over Pesticide Use Near 2 Ventura Schools

April 10, 2002|FRED ALVAREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A citrus rancher sued by prosecutors for allegedly allowing pesticide to drift onto an elementary school agreed Tuesday to refrain from spraying near two east Ventura campuses while classes are in session and pay $25,000 in penalties and restitution.

Ventura rancher Daniel Campbell agreed to terms of the settlement, which permanently puts in place a preliminary injunction issued in the wake of a reported pesticide drift onto Mound Elementary School in November 2000.

As part of the court order, expected to be completed today by Superior Court Judge David Long, Campbell will be barred until 6 p.m. on school days from spraying within 200 feet of the street that borders Mound and Balboa Middle School.

Campbell also agreed to notify school officials at least 72 hours before any scheduled pesticide application on days classes are in session, and to allow regulators from the Ventura County agricultural commissioner's office to monitor any pesticide application that occurs near the two schools.

Campbell can farm without any of those restrictions after 6 p.m. and on days when there is no school.

"I'm pleased with the outcome," said Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Greg Brose, who supervises the district attorney's consumer and environmental protection unit.

"Hopefully, it allows Mr. Campbell to do the farming on his property he is entitled to do," he said. "And it will allow the school to function in a way that doesn't impair kids, teachers or parents."

Prosecutors sued Campbell and his foreman, Raul Adame, last May for allegedly violating state health and business codes.

The lawsuit stemmed from the two reported drifts of the pesticide Lorsban onto the Mound Elementary School campus, across the street from Campbell's 200-acre lemon orchard. On one of those occasions, two students were sent home and dozens of others complained of dizziness and nausea.

After filing the civil complaint against Campbell, prosecutors in June obtained a preliminary injunction barring him from spraying on the portion of his orchard closest to Mound when students were on campus. It was the first court-ordered limit on use of a legal pesticide in Ventura County.

Reached Tuesday, Campbell had no comment on the settlement. His attorney, Archie Clarizio, could not be reached for comment but has said the pesticide drift was caused by an employee--later fired by the rancher--who sprayed in an area he was told to avoid.

As part of the settlement, Campbell agreed to pay $25,000 in penalties and restitution to several agencies, including $5,000 to reimburse the Ventura Unified School District for costs associated with the case.

"I think the importance [of this case] is that it emphasizes the concern we have for the safety of our students," said Don Austin, the school district's lawyer.

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