Infested apples rounded up


Infested apples Gov. Jay Inslee brought to Central and Eastern Washington last month in a goodwill gesture gone bad have been rounded up and destroyed.

Steve Van Vleet, a Washington State University extension specialist who helped track down the fruit infested with apple maggots, said three containers with a total of 100 to 150 apples had been collected in Malden, Bridgeport and Omak.

The apples were put into plastic bags, mashed up and left it the sun to heat up as a way of killing the larvae inside the fruit, Van Vleet said. He only knows of one apple that wasn't collected by extension specialists or the Chelan-Douglas Horticulture Pest and Disease Board.

That apple was in the possession of someone who recognized it was infested, called him to report the problem and knew how to dispose of it, Van Vleet said.

"They are all taken care of," he said.

Inslee brought boxes of apples with him when he visited communities in Whitman, Douglas and Chelan Counties that had experienced devastating wildfires early last month. He said he and his wife Trudy had picked them from a tree in the yard of the governor's mansion and brought them as a gesture of comfort to the communities.

Thurston County, where the mansion is located, is an apple maggot quarantine zone. People are not allowed to bring home-grown fruit to non-quarantine areas in most Central and Eastern Washington counties which grow one of the state's key commercial crops and are free of the dangerous pest.

Inslee later said he regretted the error and called it "a good reminder of the importance of awareness around apple quarantine."

Inslee brought a box of apples to Bridgeport, which were taken to a church where food was being distributed to fire victims.

But Dennis Hoots, one of the volunteers at the church who received the apples from Inslee, told the Capitol Press the box was set aside in the commotion. The box was put in a refrigerated truck where food was being stored, and was there when Will Carpenter from the Chelan-Douglas Horticulture Pest and Disease Control Board called trying to track the apples.

The truck's refrigeration kept the maggot larvae from becoming active.

Another bag of apples Inslee brought to a family friend in Omak was also collected, and Van Vleet said the apples brought to Malden were also tracked down.

Bringing homegrown fruit from a quarantine area to a non-quarantine area is a misdemeanor, although the state Department of Agriculture seldom fines violators, Hector Castro, department spokesman said. Instead the department works to educate violators on the importance of obeying the quarantine.

The governor and his office are now "well aware of the quarantine," Castro said after the problem surfaced.



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