By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- The Oregon Department of Agriculture issued 26 civil penalties totaling just under $50,000 for pesticide violations in 2012, including two penalties for pesticide drift at a Salem farm, according to an ODA-issued press release.
EZ Orchards and employee Lorenzo Zepeda each were fined $8,000 for the February, 2012, incident when a tankmix of two fungicides and an insecticide drifted from a pear orchard to a school yard.
The department learned of the violation through an email that included a link to a recording of the application posted on the video sharing site YouTube, according to Dale Mitchell, assistant administrator of ODA's pesticides division.
Environmental sampling from the school yard confirmed the presence of the pesticides, he said.
Hazel Green Elementary School closed the yard for several days, Mitchell said, although tests showed that pesticide levels "were not amounts that would be a concern from a health standpoint."
"In an abundance of caution they restricted the students from accessing the area," Mitchell said.
No students were present when the application occurred, he said.
The department issued the civil penalty in June under the "gross negligence" standard. The higher standard was applied because of the sensitivity of the site, Mitchell said.
Other penalties announced by ODA include a $7,215 fine for applying pesticides "in a faulty, careless, or negligent manner" to a Klamath County man conducting roadside applications for the Klamath County Public Works.
A Hood River man received a $3,848 penalty for a similar infraction along a Hood River highway that impacted adjoining fruit production.
Grass Growers of Baker City was slapped with a $2,400 penalty for using improperly licensed pesticide applicators.
A Portland landscape company, Dennis' 7 Dees, was issued a $3,256 civil penalty for eight counts of employing unlicensed pesticide applicators.