Hoping to halt the spread of the Mediterranean fruit fly before it reaches fertile South County, agriculture officials said Saturday that they would extend a quarantine well into central Orange County.
Regulators said the quarantine will cover about 80 square miles surrounding the intersection of Harbor and Garden Grove boulevards, close to where a pregnant fruit fly was discovered last week in a back yard orange tree. Quarantine boundaries will be announced within two weeks, officials said.
"There will be some inconvenience and some cost, but it won't be disastrous at all," said Don Wimmer, a regulatory supervisor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Orange County inspectors have a good relationship with the people in agribusiness down there. They were out Friday making preliminary contact with the people who will be affected."
Once a region is quarantined, it is illegal to transport produce outside the area as well as within its borders--from neighbor to neighbor or back yard to back yard, for example. The commercial interests hit hardest by the quarantine will be vendors who sell fruit at open-air markets such as swap meets and ethnic centers as well as commercial packers, officials said.
Agricultural officials also worked through the weekend drawing up boundaries and a tentative schedule for aerial pesticide spraying, which is expected to cover about nine square miles surrounding the site of the latest Medfly discovery in Garden Grove. Residents can expect 10 to 12 malathion sprayings, probably beginning the third week of January, officials of a state and federal Medfly task force said Saturday.
Heavy rain on Saturday forced state crews to halt ground work within the immediate, 200-meter radius of the Medfly discovery. The crews sprayed lawns and removed fruit from trees at about three homes, but officials said they would have to finish work on about three more homes next week.
A quarantine, declared jointly by state and federal officials last year, already covers much of Los Angeles County and the Orange County cities of Brea, Fullerton and La Habra.
The quarantine makes it a crime, punishable by fines of up to $25,000, to transport produce from the restricted area or to market it. The quarantine applies to all species of fruits and vegetables vulnerable to the fruit fly, such as apples, avocados, citrus fruit, peaches, peppers and tomatoes.
Agricultural officials said there only are a few commercial growers remaining in the largely urban area that are likely to be quarantined as a result of the latest Medfly discovery.
But other commercial interests will be affected. Operators of open-air fruit markets, for example, will be required to keep fruit covered at all times. Local packers who ship fruit from other regions will be required to follow stricter federal guidelines for storing, packaging and transporting produce as well as for disposing of trash. Commercial retailers also will face stricter regulation.
Most affected, however, will be non-commercial back yard growers, who will be prohibited from giving fresh fruits to friends or neighbors or family members living in other households.
"It's fine to eat it, but we ask that they don't give it away," Wimmer of the USDA said. "In fact, it's illegal to move it from the back yard to anybody else's home. If they want to give pies or jam, that's fine."