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Growers face fines over pesticide, worker safety violations

Three Salinas agriculture companies will pay a total of $110,000 in civil fines, following a judgment from the Monterey County District Attorney’s Environmental Protection Unit.

The companies — Norcal Harvesting LLC, Bay View Farms LLC, and R & T Farms — were fined following allegations that in 2017 they failed to notify employees of the location of a pesticide buffer zone and for failing to take employees to a physician immediately after they were potentially exposed to pesticides with a buffer zone.

According to an announcement Tuesday by the District Attorney’s Office, the application of a pesticide began on Aug. 26, 2017, and was required to include a 30-foot buffer zone between treated areas and any person.

Although required signs were posted, they were located where employees could not see them. Workers said they had not been notified of the buffer zone and about eight of them unknowingly entered the buffer zone and developed eye irritation.

The case was referred to the District Attorney’s Office as a “priority investigation,” as is required when five or more people become ill. All three companies cooperated with the investigation, prosecutors said.

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