November 15, 2006.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and the “I Heart Spinach” Program or Has the “Terminator” Become the “Germ-a-
By Frank Pecarich
Retired Soil Scientist
No sooner had I told myself I would take a break from writing about the E. coli 0157H:7 situation and Monterey County,
than news came out that now has me keyboarding again. If you recall, I am gradually realizing that this whole issue which
so obviously deals with basic science and health has become more and more political and public relations (PR) focused.
I made that observation in my last article which was the fourth in what now is a series of five. It seems that showmanship
and shined shoes are once again attempting to take the spotlight away from the issue of food safety.
Let’s start with the news on November 6th, the day before the recent national election, when we read that two major
players in the recycled (treated sewage effluent) water business were sponsoring a research study. American Water,
the private water utility company, has joined forces with the WateReuse Foundation to conduct a research project on
the biology of reclaimed (recycled) water.
The 30-month long, $500,000 project will “examine the data on how microbial re-growth in reclaimed water distribution
systems alters effluent microbial water quality and how to control this germ re-growth”, the release said.
Wow, I thought. These same organizations that told us all along that recycled/reclaimed tertiary treated sewage effluent
was OK to spray on our leafy green vegetables such as lettuce and spinach now say they want to spend $500,000 to
find out how to control microbial germ (E.coli 0157H:7) regrowth?
But … but, they said it was safe? How can they now say they are going to take the next 2 ½ years to study how to fix this
problem of killer pathogens (aka germs), such as E. coli 0157H:7, in the irrigation water they use in places like Monterey
County’s CSIP (Castroville Sea Water Intrusion Project)?
As I have said earlier, these stories have not only smoking guns but bullet casings lying all over the scene of the crime!
One thing that has become apparent through all this is that the Watereuse Association has developed what appears to
be a very symbiotic relationship with the US Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) as well as many other state and local
I said in my last article, the BOR provided loan money for the construction of the $78 million CSIP in Monterey County
and has been involved with untold other projects where recycled water has been used for some public and perhaps
That public agency involvement is not limited to the federal government. Governor Arnold Swartzenegger signed a new
bill into law on September 28, 2006 that seeks to increase the availability of recycled water by simplifying retrofit
projects. Assembly Bill 371 requires the Department of General Services and the California Department of
Transportation (Caltrans) to install piping appropriate for recycled water use in any of their landscape irrigation projects,
if they are notified by a recycled water producer that within 10 years recycled water will be provided for those projects.
The new law also requires the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to adopt and submit to the Building Standards
Commission a state version of Appendix J of the Uniform Plumbing Code. This will insure proper design standards to
safely plumb buildings for both potable and recycled water.
Oh my gosh, the law Arnold signed into law makes sure the plumbing is installed “safely” in California buildings? But who
is going to protect us from the E. coli 0157H:7 that this “recycled” water will contain that is running through those safely
installed pipes? Talk about focusing on the wrong problem or getting the cart before the horse! Arnold’s state agencies
are all concerned about piping when the material they’re “piping” has hazardous and deadly pathogens and germs on
their way to a location near you.
Maybe that explains why Arnold hot-footed it down to Salinas and announced on November 3rd that he could be
counted on by the vegetable growers to do anything he could to publicize the safety of eating spinach. He said, “"If they
want me to do a TV commercial or do a print ad or whatever needs to show Schwarzenegger eating spinach or whatever
the idea is...”
Not one to leave it alone, Arnold on his recent trip to Mexico to smooze with newly elected Felipe Calderón took the
opportunity in front of the press to say that he favored an immigration law that not only would secure the border but also
would allow employers to “bring more people into the country legally, so they can hire legally, people can work legally,
they can drive legally, they can pay their taxes.”
Schwarzenegger then urged Calderón to put California spinach back on supermarket shelves when he takes office Dec.
1. The Mexican government pulled U.S.-imported spinach off the shelves when three people died in the United States
from eating spinach infected with the bacteria E. coli.
After meeting with Calderón, Schwarzenegger said he planned to fly to Monterey and appear on a cooking show to
promote the safety of California spinach. The Mexican government must have seen the “Terminator” more like the
“Germ-a-nator” because they said that before they agreed to anything they would inspect the Salinas Valley fields and
packing situation in person.
Oh boy, when you get a movie actor playing Governor, they really know how to play to the cameras and press, don’t
they? California experienced that with cowboy Ronald Reagan and now they have updated the role with the
“Terminator”, uh, “Germ-a-nator”.
The other thing that I feel sure is in the back of Arnold’s mind, and of his handlers, is how to finagle his way into the
candidacy for President. I won’t “go there” as we have plenty to think about with spinach, lettuce, E.coli0157H:7,
Monterey County’s CSIP, etc. but I will reference this URL which you might find interesting regarding the effort to put
Arnold in the White House.
But before we leave Monterey County and their tireless effort to put a happy face on all this food safety trouble, I have
to tell you about their “I Heart Spinach” program. It seems that since Congressman Sam Farr was pretty tired out from
his PR tap dance routine where he asked us to “Go Popeye” and followed that with the spinach-less staged press
conference and capped it with “the wild pigs did it” story, nobody much wants to face the derision of those of us who see
through all this PR charade.
It turns out that the only ones who would fall for more PR follies in the spinach-is-safe message is a group called the
Central Coast Young Farmers and Ranchers. Their bumper sticker “I Heart Spinach” PR idea was naturally jumped on
by Joe Pezzini, chairman of the Growers and Shippers Association on the Central Coast and vice president of
operations at Ocean Mist Farms in Castroville. “This is a fabulous idea," said Pezzini. “Enticing people to eat spinach,
along with fruits and vegetables should be the main goal of the industry, said John Baillie, president of Baillie Family
Do you remember that the Ocean Mist Farms organization which has Pezzini as VP of Operations sits smack dab in the
middle of the CSIP. No wonder Joe Pezzini is happy for someone else to provide another distraction. Maybe then he won’
t have to deal publically with the fact that his “mist” is actually irrigation sprinkler water consisting of recycled tertiary
treated sewage effluent? I wonder if that’s what they call “ocean mist” in Monterey County?
Well, to Messrs Pezzini and Baillie and the rest of the food industry denizens out there, I would suggest that you would
be better served by making your “main goal” confessing what you have done to the citizens of the United States and
other countries where you ship soft leafy green vegetables grown with irrigation water from tertiary treated sewage
I think that instead of constantly trying to “PR” your way out of the mess you are in, some good old fashioned truth
spoken to the public is in order. We’re getting pretty tired of all this figurative “soft shoe” dancing we’re seeing you full
grown adults doing while this huge food safety problem exits for the rest of us.
In addition to Arnold’s Administration and the fact that several of the agencies he supervises and controls have their
“fingerprints on the bloody knife” of recycled water and E. coli 0157H:7, there are other key culprits in the Federal public
sector. One that is highly involved, much to my surprise, is one of my previous employers, the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation (BOR). It turns out that the BOR has been intimately involved with those promoters of recycled water
(treated sewage effluent), the Watereuse Association.
For many years now the Watereuse Foundation – the “research” arm of the Watereuse Association – has had a
fiduciary relationship with the BOR with “approximately 50% of the Foundation’s research funding coming from the
Federal government provided by Congress and administered by the BOR”. According to their testimony to the House
Subcommittee on Water and Power on April 5, 2006, the Foundation has been able to leverage its federal support by a
factor of more than 3:1.
They go on to proudly announce, “We believe this leveraging, featuring funding from state agencies in California and
Florida, other research foundations, and local water/wastewater agencies, provides compelling evidence that the
Foundation’s research program enjoys the support of stakeholders.”
The apparent purpose of this testimony before Congress was to influence the mission direction of the BOR and provides
some interesting reading. It would be wise to note the limited scientific background of the individual providing this
testimony on behalf of the Watereuse Association. I have found that there are far too many “consultants” and others
lacking the proper and necessary technical and scientific credentials and expertise who are promoting this dangerous
water reuse concept, particularly when it involves projects such as the CSIP in Monterey County.
Further, there has been special legislation passed at the federal level to nationally promote “recycled water” and both
the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the USDA have responsibilities for that activity with the BOR’s identified as Title XVI.
We also find that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Administration has their “fingerprints on the bloody knife” with the
participation of the State Water Resources Control Board as well as other state entities such as the State Department of
Between all these “players” we have all sorts of watereuse consultants, water utilities, and federal, state and local
government bureaucrats promoting the use of E. coli 0157H:7 treated sewage effluent for irrigation of crops. With all this
promotion, PR and politics, it makes sense that actual scientific review and study of this very bad idea was not
accomplished in the flurry and excitement of all this hoopla.
And bringing us back to where we came in on this very scary story, after years of shameless promotion of bad science
and dangerous tampering with our nation’s food supply and within months of promoting itself in the halls of Congress,
the Watereuse Foundation – the research arm of the Association – announced a day before the mid term election this
month that it would finally study the rather well known problem of pathogen-germ regeneration in irrigation systems such
as E. coli 0167H:7.
In my reading I also note that a career BOR employee has recently been appointed to the key BOR leadership role,
Commissioner of Reclamation. The new Commissioner – a political appointment who serves at the pleasure of the
President – is Robert “Bob” Johnson.
I suspect Bob will want to look into this issue pretty quickly as my experience in Washington, D.C. is that some Members
of Congress will pretty soon be wanting to know more about the Bureau’s role in all of this, particularly since the
Democrats have taken over both the Senate and the House.
Those new Chairperson members of the House Resources Committee and Subcommittees may not be as placid and
supportive about all this as the recently defeated California Congressman Richard Pombo who served as Chairman.
And it would appear with the shift in leadership in the House that the power on the Water and Power Subcommittee will
move to some water-knowledgeable California Congressmen such as Jim Costa and George Miller.
Arnold – the Germ-a-nator, BOR’s Bob Johnson and others may find out that they, as Ricky Ricardo used to tell Lucy,
“got some 'splainin' to do”!
I want to say this with all the sarcasm as I can muster. I’m sure that the parents of the two-year old Kyle Allgood who died
of E. coli 0157H:7 in this most recent outbreak will not be impressed by the lame and late efforts of Western Growers
Association, Watereuse Association and the myriad others who are trying desperately to CTA (cover their fannies).
After all, when this Watereuse Association 2 ½ year “study” is complete, we will have had our 2007 and 2008 Monterey-
San Benito County E. coli0157H:7 outbreaks and who knows how many more will be dead, suffering and sick by that