Here we go...
The "rape of St Lucia" is about to begin, with the construction of biohazard labs in a residential area!
Biohazard Action Alliance
*** Town humiliated in pesticide scare
01:28 AM ET 12/09/99
Town Humiliated in Pesticide Scare
By CHRISTINE HANLEY= Associated Press Writer=
EARLIMART, Calif. (AP) _ Sickened by a mysterious stench that
wafted across this tiny community, two dozen people sat in a grassy
field on a chilly evening and waited for emergency crews to decide
what to do.
At the time, no one knew what was causing their eyes to water,
lungs to burn, stomachs to retch. Amid the chaos, as a precaution,
a decontamination line was ordered.
One by one, those sickened, most of them women, were sprayed
with water by men wearing masks and green splash suits: the
hazardous materials team.
Lupe Baeza, a 56-year-old grandmother, was first.
``They said to take off all my clothes. I left my underwear on.
I said, 'I'm not taking them off,''' she said, recalling how her
protest was in vain, as a paramedic pulled them off. ``He said I
Nearly a month later, Baeza and the others remain humiliated by
the treatment, frightened by their exposure to what turned out to
be a cancer-causing soil fumigant and saddled with thousands of
dollars in medical bills they cannot afford.
Tired of getting no answers, some residents on Wednesday gave a
representative of the Board of Supervisors at least 183 complaints
about illnesses believed to be related to their exposure on Nov.
They are demanding a more organized evacuation system,
reimbursement for ambulance and hospital expenses and, most
importantly, stricter pesticide regulations and air monitoring
standards. A meeting was planned today with the Tulare County
``If something like this happened in Berkeley or Sacramento, to
people who vote or ordinary middle-class citizens, legislators
would be tripping over themselves to get something done about it,''
said Dr. Marion Moses of the Pesticide Education Center in San
Most of the 3,000 or so residents of Earlimart, about 70 miles
south of Fresno, are Hispanic or Filipino. Some are transient.
Nearly all earn their living picking grapes or pruning vines.
Wilbur-Ellis Co. was applying a fumigant known by the trade name
Sectagon 42 to a 75-acre potato field owned by Vignolo Farms when
the smell drifted over the town that Saturday afternoon.
Sectagon 42 contains metam sodium, which is on the state's list
of cancer-causing pesticides.
The compound is fast becoming an alternative to methyl bromide,
a highly toxic fumigant prized by farmers but being phased out
worldwide. From 1991 to 1998, use of metam sodium jumped from about
5 million pounds statewide to more than 15 million pounds.
Restrictions are tightest in a few counties where similar accidents
County agriculture officials say it appears the company followed
county regulations: meeting the per-acre ratio, posting warning
signs and staying within a required 500-foot buffer zone.
Still, the fumes escaped.
``Rotten eggs. Really rotten eggs,'' Lucy Huizar said of that
About 150 people were evacuated from their homes. Following
sheriff's orders, Huizar, a single mom, took three of her kids to a
middle school and waited with others on the football field. Because
of the contamination potential, they were not allowed inside.
Mothers cradled their infants. Some people vomited.
Ambulance workers called for the decontamination line because
they are not allowed to transport contaminated passengers.
Though plastic tarps offered a partial shield, Huizar and the
others said they were forced to strip down to nothing in an area
within view of a crowd of at least 100 emergency personnel, TV
crews and other spectators.
``It felt like we were raped,'' said Huizar, 42, reenacting how
she was told to lift up her arms and turn in circles as she walked
down the line.
Firefighters and agriculture officials say the possible
consequences outweighed privacy issues.
``I know some people were humiliated. But it's life or death
sometimes,'' said Tulare County Fire Capt. Patricia Granillo.
``Prior to them being washed down, we didn't know what the chemical
was. It was just standard operating procedure.''
Hazardous materials crews are required to carry CD-Roms with
pesticide information. Otherwise, they are instructed to contact
local agriculture officials, who had reached the potato field and
interviewed the applicator by the time decontamination began.
Both groups should have been aware of Sectagon 42's contents,
said Glenn Brank, spokesman for the state Department of Pesticide
Huizar and the others were examined at various hospitals and
sent home, told they were exposed to a gas that is nothing more
than an irritant.
Moses disputes that. She said even the fumes of metam sodium are
a toxin capable of disrupting reproductive systems.
The treatment didn't come cheap, either. Ambulance rides cost
$885 for Huizar and each of her three kids. The doctor's advice
cost nearly $200 apiece.
The bills included this advice: ``Get rest, lots of fluids and
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