Watertrough Childrens Alliance-
help us protect our children

Advocates Challenge EPA's Continuing Failure to Protect Children and Families from Hazardous Pesticide Drift


Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network North America: 916-216-1082, ptowers@panna.org


July 24 2013

Advocates Challenge EPA's Continuing Failure to Protect Children and Families from Hazardous Pesticide DriftPublic interest groups urge immediate pesticide protections in areas where children live, learn and play

San Francisco, CA—Today, a coalition of farmworker, public health, and conservation advocates filed a challenge in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect children from unsafe exposures to toxic pesticides.

The suit seeks an answer to a petition that the advocates filed with the agency in 2009, urging EPA to set safety standards protecting children who grow up near farms from the harmful effects of pesticide drift. 

 “It is not acceptable that our own government has so little regard for the health of our children,” said Janette Brimmer, an Earthjustice attorney representing the coalition “The government hasn’t even bothered to prepare a response to our requests.”

Please click here to read more:


SEBASTOPOL: Environmentalists sue EPA for failing to protect kids from pesticides

Our story has become part of a lawsuit filed by the Pesticide Action network against the EPA.  We are getting some news coverage and you are able to see the destruction that has occurred on the property.  Also, they are building a fence surrounding it so we will not be able to see what is going on behind the fence, a fence adds no protection to our children (Unless its a 50ft planted fence of tress and foliage).

Please click the link to watch the KTV U CBS report. More to come...


It has been raining here and we were concerned with the water runoff that was occurring from the Paul Hobbs Winery orchard conversion.  It was truly amazing to visit the site.  Several people had called into the Water Board and it was feeling like there would not be anyone available until the next day to visit the site, so after researching what the Water Board would require for a sediment sample, we went to collect the samples ourselves.  

Here are some photos from our visit.  The scene was devastating and the dreary rain only expressed the sadness that we felt seeing 40+ acres of dead trees and barren land. Only two weeks ago this space was very alive!

As we were leaving we saw that the Ag Commissioners office and the Water Board had arrived.  We exchanged information and gave them our samples and they seemed to agree that this was not acceptable practices for the construction site.  It is clear that it will be up to us to monitor the conversion and report to the appropriate agencies if we see any violations.  There is not enough staff to make sure the "farmer" is following "the rules". 

Hopefully this is a win for WCA, as we were told the project would be red flagged until the drainage issue was remedied!  

Please make a note that every Tuesday at 1:30 pm at 575 Administration Blvd in Santa Rosa the public has a chance to speak to the Board of Supervisors about issues in this county.  We consider this on ongoing issue and would appreciate anyone and everyone attending to help clarify to the BOS what needs to be done.

My name is Lori Gatmaitan.

I am new to understanding how local government agencies work and indeed how the press works since I was assumed to be a protestor yesterday while viewing the destruction of the trees at the orchard adjacent to Apple Blossom School in Sebastopol. Yesterday I went to look at the apple trees laying on their sides and to try and figure out another way to protect my daughter and all the children, and was interviewed about my concerns. In Matt's defense, I did not distinguish myself from others present. So, in the interest of learning from yesterday, I am a concerned parent of a wonderful 10 year old who goes to Apple Blossom school.

It is my understanding that out of all the local and state agencies, you all as a group hold the power to help protect our children during this time of conversion of the apple orchard to vineyard. My concern is the conversion process itself and that it be handled safely. The conversion falls through the cracks of the laws we currently have legislated and all the permits were done accordingly. So again, I come to you all because you have the power to protect our children. We are your constituents and need your protection in this matter.

I am specifically asking this board to temporarily halt the work being done at 622 Watertrough Rd in Sebastopol. I do not dispute the landowner's right to do what he wants on his property. What is important here is that the conversion has the great potential to harm his neighbors, the children, teachers, and staff at 5 schools in close proximity. Three schools literally share a common 2,080 ft border with the orchard.

There has been 50+ years of pesticide use on this land and I ask the board to require Paul Hobbs Winery to pay for an independent, EPA approved group to conduct a comprehensive soil test. These results need to be made public to the community, school board, AG commissioner, and to this board of supervisors. Then a plan to safe guard everyone concerned can be created and implemented properly before the conversion resumes.

Thank you for listening to my concerns and protecting our children.

Thomas Cooper of the Apple Roots Group spoke: 

Orchard Conversion briefing to Board of Supervisors. by Thomas Cooper on 6/18/13. Included in this briefing are 1) narrative of my trip to 6/17/13 Orchard Site, 2) Press Release for action on 6/17/13. 3) Aerial map of Orchard Conversion. 

I went to 622 Watertrough Rd in Sebastopol from 9am to Noon to Decorate the Gate. I was hoping for 6-8 people attending and got 12. Press Democrat and Sonoma West Times reporters interviewed those present and PD photographer took many pictures. Raised concern about ongoing Orchard Conversion on Watertrough Rd and the health risks posed by toxic dust drifting onto the 5 schools nearby. Removal of tree started while we were there. The dust from the work coated my face, hair and glasses. I could also smell and taste it. 
Included in this briefing is an aerial map of the orchard and show how the orchard surrounds Apple Blossom Campus on three sides. No amount of setback or barrier will stop dust from drifting onto the schools. I also Restated Apple Roots key demands
1) Complete moratorium on new vineyards in Sonoma County to thoroughly review safer, new best practices for vineyard management
2) Review the issue of land use for vineyards at the expense of open space, wildlife and human safety and food grown for people to eat.

I learned today the following the current Orchard Conversion process underway is exempt from the jurisdiction of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Their mandate is contained within the State Health and Safety code 41701 to investigate and enforce clear air standards, in this case drift of dust. Code 41705 stated code 41701 does not apply to agricultural operations or use of agricultural equipment necessary for the growing of crops or raising of fowl or animals. 

This is a blatant example of Corporate Agribusiness creating laws and codes to benefit their multi-billion dollar business at the expense open space, wildlife and human safety and food grown for people.


FOR NOW IF YOU SEE DUST CALL the Ag Commission at (707) 565-2371

Bay Area Air Quality Management District is exempt from enforcing air quality standards for agriculture unless a grinder is present. 
The current process is under the purview of the Sonoma County Agriculture Commission ONLY. And-once a Grinder arrives onsite that work will be permitted by the BAAQMD. FOR NOW IF YOU SEE DUST CALL the Ag Commission at (707) 565-2371

See Codes Below:

Exempt Agriculture Operation Health and Safety Code 41701 and 410701.4 G & H exempt. 
Grinder on site permitted in our office-permit conditions PERP. 
Come with permit conditions.
I just learned that the current Orchard Conversion process 
underway is exempt from the jurisdiction of the Bay Area
Air Quality Management District. Their mandate is contained within the State Health and Safety code 41701 and says this: " 41700. (a) Except as otherwise provided in Section 41705, a person shall not discharge from any source whatsoever quantities of air contaminants or other material that cause injury, detriment, nuisance, ......"

H&S Code 41704. States: "Section 41701 does not apply to any of the following: ...... (g) Agricultural operations necessary for the growing of crops or raising of fowl or animals. (h) The use of other equipment in agricultural operations necessary for the growing of crops or raising of fowl or animals." 
see for entire text of codes. 

There is a separate group of people and residents that have decided to take some direct action.  They were protesting the conversion yesterday and the PD wrote a bit about it

Published: Monday, June 17, 2013 at 12:20 p.m.Last Modified: Monday, June 17, 2013 at 6:50 p.m.
About a dozen residents Monday protested work underway to convert a Sebastopol apple orchard into a vineyard, saying dust from the uprooted trees contained toxic pesticides that could harm children at neighboring schools.

Thomas Cooper, dressed in a hazmat suit, puts up a sign encouraging residents to call the Air Pollution Complaint Line for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District if they experience dust from the cutting of an orchard near the Apple Blossom Elementary School and Orchard View School in Sebastopol on Monday, June 17, 2013.

Work began last week on the property, owned by Sebastopol winemaker Paul Hobbs. Parents of children who attend several schools in the area say they want a buffer zone between the property and the adjacent Apple Blossom and Orchard View schools.

Parent groups raised the issue of soil contamination when Hobbs applied for a vineyard development permit in March. The winemaker bought the 48-acre property on Watertrough Road in 2012.

“This is so close to a school, you can't ignore it,” said Thomas Cooper, whose son attends nearby SunRidge School. “We're here to raise the alarm.”

Twin Hills School District is working with Paul Hobbs Winery to limit the dust during the conversion project, said Barbara Bickford, the district's superintendent. The winery is planning to build a fence to limit the dust and will spray chemicals outside of school hours, Bickford said.

“We certainly have taken great strides to address the concerns,” she said. “We have worked with the grower to ensure the safety of the children, the teachers and the staff.”

The school district will monitor dust levels in the air, and has met with an environmental engineer who said “the risk for dust migration appears to be minimal,” Bickford said.

Maben Rainwater, school board president, said that he will feel better about the project if Paul Hobbs Winery complies with its permit and its agreement with the district. Hobbs is required to water the fields during tree removal to keep the dust down, he said.

to read more....



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:


Paul Hobbs, please take note.

From Joy Today: as I approached the podium to speak today at the board of supervisors meeting, I was unnerved by the setting of the supervisors way up on their stand... and suddenly I felt very small. and very nervous.

I spoke to my family's passion for agriculture and our reliance on ag to make a living. I included information from the 2011 sonoma county crop report and how the wine grape growers need to be increasing the acreage of organically grown grapes... (of the over 60,000 acres of wine grapes in Sonoma county only 678 are organic!)

I am a member of the watertrough children's alliance, my daughter attends orchard view school which is located on the twin hills union campus. We have asked to landowner (Paul Hobbs winery) to go above and beyond what is currently required of him because to the proximity of this site to 700 school children and the history of chemical use on this conventional apple orchard. This is a problem... we should not have to be at the mercy of a good neighbor negotiation... this should be regulated.

Thomas Cooper:
A number of concerned parents and citizens attended the Public Comment Period today at the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. We all expressed concerns and problems with the Watertrough Orchard Conversion planned by the Paul Hobbs Winery Lp. I took my almost 3 minutes with my 6 year old son standing next me. My comments covered the following:

I raised two specific concerns about the planned conversion to a vineyard

One-the danger of DDT Laden dust stirred up by the destruction of the orchard drifting on to the surrounding school grounds, places where children eat their lunch and the neighborhood. I stat-ed it does not matter how much dust abatement is done by Hobbs the dust will travel.

Two-Use of toxic herbicide and pesticide on the vineyard and dangers of drift of these toxins onto school grounds, where children eat their lunches and the neighborhood.

I closed by stating that many parents and concerned 

To every person that showed up to our Public Forum and continues to support us. We are enthusiastic and energized to continue our work to keep our children safe and all of the sensitive population protected from unwanted exposure to chemicals and pesticides. In no way are we anti-farming, in every way are we pro-healthy living.

We are continuing to focus on slowing/stopping/improving the conversion until we know our children will not be put in harms way, by requesting comprehensive soil tests on the land. We are convinced there needs to be 3rd party soil tests and then there needs to be an agreement that the vineyard will go certified organic, so we know there is no spray and chemical fertilizers used. 

We are also continuing our work on the school Protective/Buffer zones.  This will require Community organizing, networking with other Sonoma County schools, working with the local government agencies and officials to create a permanent change to the legislation that will protect all school children  and sensitive populations from exposure to Agricultural chemicals.  Just as there is a reduced speed limit, a no drug zone, a no tobacco use zone, a no sex offender zone surrounding all schools in California…the time has come for a no Spray zone!  It is TIME for this to be addressed.

Thank you to Barry from WaccoBB for this great video and quick edit

It was incredible to see so many people from so many different arenas come together to discuss, listen, learn and educate about the issues of Pesticide use in Agriculture and specifically in our county. 
You can find some public feedback on our Forum here on WaccoBB.net: http://www.waccobb.net/forums/showthread.php?98463-Grange-Hall-Paul-Hobbs&p=166870#post166870

As of this posting, no other local news outlets have mentioned such a news worthy Public Forum, we sincerely hope that changes too!