Pescadero farmworkers evicted due to nitrates in water supply

By on Fri, May 21, 2010

San Mateo County has closed down two farmworker labor camps housing more than 50 individuals because nitrate levels in their drinking water were six time the federal limit, reports Julia Scott in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

The families are tenants of "Red" Marchi, their employer and owner of Marchi’s Central Farm. The farm grows 300 acres of Brussels sprouts, leeks and other vegetables in and around Pescadero. [...]

[County health director Dean] Peterson and Marchi say no one is living at either labor camp anymore. But Kerry Lobel, executive director of Pescadero-based community nonprofit group Puente de la Costa Sur, says most families are still there because they have nowhere else to go.


The Bay Area News Group reported Monday that nitrates have been found in the wells that supply drinking water to more than 2 million Californians over the past 15 years. Yet government regulators have failed to make controlling nitrates a high priority, even as it has become the most common groundwater contaminant in the country.

Nitrates are linked to blue baby syndrome, which cuts off oxygen to essential organs in infants. It can also affect pregnant women and immuno-compromised adults.

Lobel estimated that between five and eight infants are living in both labor camps and possibly some pregnant women as well.

The county has known that the labor camp has a history of nitrate contamination and the farm has a "long history of housing safety violations", reports the County Times.

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