California Aggie Covers Issue of Agraquest; Yolo County Health Discounts Health Concerns

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This morning, there is an article in the California Aggie about Agraquest and former Employee Davis Bell.

Of particular interest is a response from Jeff Pinnow, supervising hazardous material specialist for Yolo County Environmental Health.

According to him, claims about the possibility of harmful microbes in local soil are unfounded.

“Jeff Pinnow, supervising hazardous materials specialist for Yolo County Environmental Health, said that the complaint did not come into Yolo County until 2007, even though Bell began experiencing symptoms a few months after he started at the company in 1998. Bell’s mother, Sandi Trend, took it to the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office and was mainly approaching it from the standpoint of worker’s compensation issues, said Pinnow.

When Pinnow looked at the complaint he said that most of it dealt with worker’s health and safety as well as soil importation into the country.

“If we thought it was a threat we would have initiated some type of investigation or we would have found some other agency to do it,” Pinnow said. “[Any loose microbes] have been out getting rained on and open to elements for 10 years and I have one repeated case of illness. The likelihood of that being a public health threat – it doesn’t even rise to that level.”

Pinnow said that if the information had been reported in 1998 or 1999, there would have been more urgency.”

There have been two concerns raised here. One is that materials were dumped onto the soil. A question that arises from that is whether people were exposed to this even ten years ago. As many who have followed the history of such problems are well aware of, symptoms tend to show up only years down the line.

The second issue that arises is the question of the building itself that used to house AgraQuest. The building owner suggests that the building has been refurbished at least three times since AgraQuest was there.

However, Doug Haney who has been researching molds, fungi, and microbes for over 20 years remains concerned that the building may not have been properly and thoroughly cleansed.

In an interview with the Vanguard last week, Mr. Haney suggested that without such specific procedures, the ventilation system in the building could still remain a threat.

It is interesting that Mr. Pinnow is willing to write off the threat without an sort of physical examination. And yet someone who has worked with molds and toxins for a number of years remains very concerned about the possibility of airborne exposure. The fact remains, no one really knows what was actually dumped on that spot.

Mr. Haney has worked in Sacramento on a number of health threats from sick building syndrome.

The Yolo County Health Department is clearly trying to calm any concerns here, but to date, no one has looked at that building or the area around it to see if it represents a health threat.

One final note, yesterday in one of the old articles, it was suggested that this has been a very one-sided story in the Vanguard. However, Pam Marrone did not return an email requesting an interview from the Vanguard and declined to comment on the News and Review story. Both Pam Marrone and AgraQuest are welcome to have full and equal time to tell their side of the story.

The Vanguard will continue to follow this issue as new developments come forth.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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