Washington state is known for its apples — but Gov. Jay Inslee didn’t appear to do the popular fruit any public-relations favors last week.
The Democrat, in an effort to bring comfort to communities in Eastern Washington devastated by recent wildfires, unknowingly and illegally gifted baskets of apples from his orchard in Olympia that were later found to be infested with apple maggot larvae, according to reports.
Thurston County, where Inslee lives, is an apple maggot quarantine area –meaning it was illegal for Inslee to bring homegrown apples from that area to a non-quarantine area like Douglas County, according to Q13 FOX in Seattle.
The governor expressed his regrets in a statement.
“Last week Trudi [Inslee’s wife] and I wanted to express comfort for the communities suffering from devastating fires,” Inslee said. “When I visited some of these areas, I took some apples we picked from our tree in Olympia. We regret this mistake. This is a good reminder of the importance of awareness around apple quarantine. We appreciate the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s efforts to help recover these apples and we are assisting to help make that happen.”
A basket of apples the governor gave to a retirement home in Omak, Wash., later tested positive for apple maggot larvae so officials were desperately trying to find the basket he left at a church in Omak, Wash., but no one knows where it went, according to the station.
Douglas County, west of Spokane, is currently pest-free and could be infected by the bad apples.
“Apple Maggots are an incredibly serious pest and could have dire consequences for the orchardists of Douglas County if we are unable to find the infected apples and mitigate the effects immediately,” Douglas County officials wrote on Facebook. “Douglas County orchardists, regulators, and processors have worked tirelessly to ensure that our area stays free of apple maggots and this event could have serious implications for the region. It is of the utmost importance these apples are safely disposed of immediately.”
Officials said they had reason to believe the apples may have been mixed with others that weren’t contaminated, according to Q13.
With apple orchards everywhere in the town, some in Bridgeport called the governor’s gift – contaminated or not — a “slap in the face,” according to Seattle’s KUOW-TV.
“Some people are living in tents; some people with relatives,” a 45-year resident of the devastated town said. “The most challenging thing is building back, you know. There’s people asking for money, which a lot of people don’t have it here.”
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