In 1999, mom Maria Garcia filed an administrative complaint with the EPA to halt the use of highly toxic pesticides that were contaminating schools in predominantly Latino communities in California, in particular her son’s school. The EPA found that the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) had indeed discriminated against those living in certain areas in the state, which in turn affected how they issued permits for pesticide use. However, instead of involving the original families who took part in the grievance, the EPA secretly settled the issue without a word to the public.
The EPA issued a finding of discrimination against the CDPR in 2011 based on the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Their conclusion involved data measuring the pesticide methyl bromide near California schools from 1995 to 2001. This was the first time in the EPA’s entire history that they had made such a ruling. But rather than address the complaint, they dismissed the matter without notifying the plaintiffs. Now, the original families are suing the EPA under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.
High doses of methyl bromide, such as those found around Rio Mesa High School in Oxnard, can cause harm to the eyes, skin, and lungs as well as complete respiratory and central nervous system failure. The high school experienced levels higher than all twelve exposure thresholds set by the EPA. Represented by the The City Project, Farmworker Justice, the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, and California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc., the plaintiffs are struggling to find justice for their communities despite the actions of the agency designed to keep them safe.