Helicopter Company found responsible for illegal drifts of pesticides

A helicopter company in Lodi that specializes in commercial government services and sightseeing tours was found liable by a San Joaquin Superior Court judge on Tuesday in connection with five illegal pesticide drifts, the Department of Health said. California Justice.

According to the National Pesticide Information Center, pesticide drift is the airborne movement of pesticides from an application area to an unintended site and can expose people, animals, plants, and property.

In 2020, state prosecutors and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation filed a lawsuit alleging that Alpine Helicopter Services and its pilot employees violated laws prohibiting pesticide drift.

After San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar also filed a lawsuit against the company, the two court cases were combined.

According to a press release from Attorney General Rob Bonta, Alpine failed to apply pesticides in accordance with industry standards on Bouldin Island in May 2014, Turner Academy in April 2017, the San County Regional Sports Complex Joaquin in September 2019 and in Isleton in July 2020. .

“Today’s decision is an important victory for the many people in our state who live and work in farming communities,” Bonta said. “Alpine’s negligent approach to pesticide application is unacceptable.”

Three of the drifts occurred in San Joaquin County.

At Bouldin Island, the helicopter company had applied herbicides to nearly 5,000 acres of land. The process occurred under unsuitable weather conditions which resulted in the chemicals being transferred to many crops, resulting in many crop losses.

Turner Academy, a special education school in Lodi, found harmful pesticides on school buildings, grass pitches, playground equipment, picnic tables and sidewalks.

Both cases were prosecuted by the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office.

The San Joaquin County Regional Sports Complex in Stockton, which serves disadvantaged communities that experience disproportionate exposure to environmental pollution, was impacted by pesticides from two aerial applications that drifted onto the complex.

Bonta’s office said children and families were present during one of the pesticide applications.

“We have a duty to hold accountable those who act with complete disregard for the safety and health of our community,” Salazar said. “The responsible application of pesticides is paramount to protecting our environment while supporting a vibrant agricultural economy.”

Litigation to determine the penalties for the company is ongoing.

Alpine Helicopter Services officials were not immediately available for comment.

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