TWIN HILLS SCHOOL BOARD MEETING COMMENTS, JUNE 12, 2013
Today, at 5:00 p.m., about 30 fathers, mothers, neighbors and concerned community members met at Apple Blossom School, next to the apple orchard which Paul Hobbs wishes to convert to a vineyard, to express their concerns to the Twin Hills School Board concerning this matter.
Unfortunately, there was a very long wait before we would be allowed into the meeting room, during which time Sebastacat had the opportunity to meet and chat with the neighbors who will be impacted by this massive project -- and to rekindle an old friendship as well.
But to my absolute and complete amazement, I was informed by at least five of these neighbors that, despite Tara's statements to the newspaper AND in her comments which were made at the meeting held at the Grange Hall two weeks ago, these neighbors were given no notice, no knock on the door -- and no Kozlawski pie!
In fact, they just sat there looking at each other in bewilderment when the subject was brought up.
For those of you who do not know, Tara works for Paul Hobbs.
After writing furiously and taking copious and exhaustive notes, I am going to attempt to summarize as best I can the comments of each of the people who addressed the board.
Before I begin, I want to commend the members of the board for treating the crowd with the utmost dignity and respect at all times. Your conduct in that respect was exemplary.
Before the start of the public comment session, Trustee Rainwater said that they invited a well-known engineer to come and advise the board so they could help them get the proper procedures in place so that any problems or harm would be minimized and mitigated to protect everyone -- especially the children.
So here goes. I apologize in advance if I make any unintentional errors.
1. Cassandra. Has a daughter in Sun Ridge and one starting next year and one son who will eventually start school. Addressed whether soil has contamination in it. It is the W.A.C. Group's position it should be tested.
The buildings which were demolished on the site are known to have also contained lead and asbestos. The testing that has been done by a parent was non-scientific. The Department of Toxic Substances has rigorous protocol. Places where contaminants were spilled should merit particular attention.
2. Ross. Has a son at Sun Ridge. His research says if it is present in the orchard, "it will find us."
Roundup will stay in the soil. Put some resistance to this to protect the kids from high toxicity levels.
3. Amber. Has a daughter in kindergarten at Sun Ridge, feels like now she has no control over her well-being.
Won't feed her daughter anything that she, Amber, can't pronounce. Now she feels like she is. Asked the ag commissioner for her input on Hobbs pesticide use. He can say he's going to do one thing and do another.
She read list aloud of his pesticide use from 2008-2012. It is a huge list of over 30. "99% of the things I have never even heard of!" She thinks it's highly unlikely that only two (2) products -- sulfur and Roundup -- will be used.
4. Christine. Has a daughter at Orchard View, who is sad that summer's here because she misses school.
Spoke to the Dept. of Pesticides, D.I.S.C., Bay Area Air Quality Management District She says they have juristiction. She feels this project is "falling through the cracks." Someone who works at one of these agencies said that with her 40-50 years experience with orchards, the situation with schools are strict. She says there has not been a site analysis by the vineyard owner and said it is extremely bad to have not analyzed the site. The person said, You are going to see some things through the years happening and you are going to look back and wish you had had a plan. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District will respond within 30 minutes to complaints if necessary. Someone will be here tomorrow.
5. Honora. Has a son in kindergarten. Does the school board have a plan? The group has researched drift monitoring or getting a drift-catcher for $500 for one day and $1,000 for two campuses to have it. This is proactive. Asked board for a financial contribution and permission to put it on the campus. Wants to see spray-free protection zones in Sonoma County and wants the board to support them to get such an ordinance passed. A 25-page report re spray drift will be made available tomorrow.
6. Estrella. Son attended preschool. Handed Barbara (superintendent) a petition with 900 signatures, with more to come. She said three families have dropped out of summer school and this is a huge hit to the school. Wants school board to adopt the California Healthy Schools Act as to pesticide use. The school is required to follow this act and use it is a place to convey their concerns. Since the spraying is going to happen so close to the schools, it's as if it's going to occur on school property. All school districts are supposed to follow this law.
7. Craig Litwin. Has three children in Sun Ridge. They attend the campus in downtown Seb. but come to the Watertrough Road campus for outdoor activities. He was one of the students on the bus in 1998 when the bus driver told the kids to "shut all the windows" when a cloud of pesticide drift was drifting toward the school bus. Wants the board to encourage Hobbs to make it a certified organic vineyard and create some sort of collaborative organic area; then he would feel safe. And it would help Hobbs to look better in public. Suggested spraying be done on weekends, not weekdays, and to use organic fungicides. Said there is a need to expand safety zones county-wide. Need to work on the other districts to stand up for organic!
8. Paula Tucker. Parent/child in Sun Ridge School. Need more dust control measures. She read a letter to this effect. The letter enumerated many ways to mitigate dust. Also, tree limbs shouldn't be trimmed much and they will act as a barrier. Electrostatic spraying - sprays electrostatically charged spray so it attaches more readily to the foliage and, thus, less spray material is needed.
9. Emily. Has a son in first grade and daughter Iris in third. Kids will be working in the soil and eating food and drinking water here, so her daughter's class especially would be affected by drift and water contamination.
She noted that Barbara was sitting under a sign glorifying Sebastopol's apple heritage. Let's keep it Apple Blossom School, not Vineyard School! Advocated for baseline water and soil testing and well-water checks as wells that were dug by Hobbs could impact the schools' wells and the neighbors' wells. She read a letter which gave references, e-mails and phone numbers as well as suggestions for laboratories who perform these services. Described how bad the dust can be. Sun Ridge Garden Habitat soil would take special consideration.
10. Nicole. Mother of a child in Kindergarden at Sun Ridge. We all care about keeping our children safe. Just because a pesticide is registered with the EPA does not mean it's safe. Several contain known carcinogens, and children are particularly sensitive to the risks. Drift is inevitable and can occur hours and even days later. Indoor exposure can occur at 100 to 1,000 times higher!! Since we're at close range, we should take extra precautionary measure to ensure protection. We know that sprays have drifted over here in the past and we now have the opportunity to change that. Back in the '90's, the parents stood up, and someone who was putting in a new vineyard agreed to stop using methyl bromide. Even if you are legally bound to do nothing, you must STILL keep the children safe.
11. Dr. Shepherd Bliss. The spray drift will affect the flight pattern of bees in this area. Praised organic farmers and grape-growers, Benzinger, Kline, Deloach, Coteri (sp), Wild Horse, Topolos.
With the bad ones, the profits tend to leave the county. Mettle, Trigger, Spray-Green are bad and can cause cancer and are groundwater contaminants and endocrine disruptors. Who else is impacted? Bees, teachers, staff and families, vineyard workers, who report high incidences of health problems. In some places, when the spraying is done, they have to go to a hotel.
To be a farmer in Sonoma County, you have to live here and put your hands in the dirt. Let's stop poisoning with chemicals -- not on Water Trough or anywhere else. Hobbs could take the hero's route and go organic. Told the board to raise the issue with him.
12. Megan. Went to Apple Blossom, has a three-month-old baby. The newspaper article says that the neighbors were given pies. There are quite a few neighbors who were not contacted or given pies. "Let's test the integrity of these people: Take a poll and see how many were contacted" They don't want all the sprays; they want it all organic to protect the neighbors.
13. Kate. Teaches kindergarden at Sun Ridge and lives on that property as well. It wasn't until the barn was coming down that she got notice (!!). Thanked the board, told them to be bold enough to say, "Mr. Hobbs, let's go organic. He might just respond with a similar act of boldness. Make that your starting point. Let's not have to worry what will be put on the soil in the future.
14. Jordan. Two kids at Apple Blossom. Submitted a drawing for a barrier which could be made. You could create a dense hedge and gave dimensions. And it could potentially stop the dust and drift. Expressed frustration re: getting information and passing on information. Would like to get information the board got from their engineers. Re the Memorandum of Understanding, Where is that, and what's going into that? What are the results of the water testing? Thought there would be a meeting with Tara from Hobbs last Friday, and Mr. Rainwater of the board said "No." (Note: I found that disappointing). Wants more information to be put on the Web site. He said the people here are your advocates so you can negotiate from a position of strength.
15. Pam. Megan is her daughter. It would be awesome to have a boundary around the school to keep pesticides out. She sees wildlife crossing for the last 30 years. Wants a natural habitat corridor for animals. Went to look at the orchard today and heard chainsaws and was saddened to see a deer running away.
16. Dan. has a daughter and soon-to-be kindergartener. Has a history of cancer in his family. Looks like they're going to have to leave Apple Blossom. Any support....you could have the board or some other entity communicate with the ag commissioner? This is a BIG issue.
17. Thomas Bonfigli (Sebastacat). Told the board that the parents and community deserved better notice and a memorandum of understanding or other agreement with "teeth and consequences."
The board then closed the public-comment session and reported to those in attendance that they asked the grower to put up a dust fence, and he said they would before they did the work.
Regarding the electrostatic sprayer, any spraying is still a year or two off, but they will look into it.
They reported that they were told by the ag commissioner and the grower that there will be no tilling on windy days.
The board said the school is required by law to test the water, and the results are posted on the Web site. That will continue.
The grower said that any spraying will happen between April to September and that the schools affected will be given 45 days' notice.
The board reported that there was "some openness" into not spraying Roundup. Hobbs is looking into it.
The limbs and trunks of the apple trees will be cut this week; grinding of stumps will occur after that.
Soil ripping will occur in late June or July.
Erosion control measures will start in early August.
The board reported that the school is trying to keep in communication." Some things, they have not been able to get in writing. They will keep in contact and post information on the Web site when it becomes available.
Superintendent Bickford said that they've talked to 4 enviromental engineers and are getting information from outside the grower.
In conclusion, Sebastacat will note that on his way out of this peaceful campus, he noticed a plaque inscribed with these moving words which sum up the mission of this special school (and those surrounding it) nestled in this special spot of the west county:
"DEDICATED TO MOTHER EARTH."
Paul Hobbs, please take note.