(Beyond Pesticides, July 13, 2010) Beyond Pesticides is urging the public to send comments by July 19, 2010 to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its recently issued draft “general permit” under the Clean Water Act (CWA) that will govern aquatic pesticides and certain pesticide spraying over or near surface waters, including mosquito spraying and spraying over forest canopies and near irrigation ditches. Environmental groups believe the pesticide industry is lobbying to make this permit as weak as possible.
Beyond Pesticides encourages individuals to send comments to EPA supporting strong, meaningful regulation of pesticide applications in order to fully protect public health and the environment. See talking points and instructions for sending comments below.
EPA announced the public availability of a draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permit, posted here, for certain pesticide use patterns, also known as the Pesticides General Permit (PGP) on June 2, 2010. The action stems from a 2009 court decision in the case of the National Cotton Council et al. v. EPA, in which the 6th circuit court of appeals ruled that pesticide discharges into water are pollutants and require permitting under the CWA. This ruling overturned the Bush administration policy that exempted pesticides from regulation under the CWA, and instead applied the less stringent standards of the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
CWA uses a health-based standard known as maximum contamination levels to protect waterways and requires permits when chemicals are directly deposited into rivers, lakes and streams, while FIFRA uses a highly subjective risk assessment that does not consider safer alternatives. For more background on the issue, see Beyond Pesticides’ June 4, 2010 Daily News Blog entry.
EPA’s draft permit has several good features, but it is weak in certain areas and industry is pushing hard to make it even weaker. The following are important points about which EPA needs to hear from as many residents and community groups as possible:
”¢ Require the use of least toxic alternatives — The draft permit requires large applicators to evaluate available alternatives to pesticides (including taking no action, and using preventative or mechanical control methods), but essentially lets the applicator decide when a pesticide should be used instead. [p.8-14, 31] EPA should require the use of the least toxic alternative (or require that non-toxic methods of pest control be tried first), and set objective standards for when pesticide use is allowed.
”¢ Expand the range of pesticide applications covered by the permit — The draft permit imposes more stringent requirements on discharges that cover more than 20 acres for aquatic pesticides or more than 640 acres (one square mile) for mosquito spraying. [p. 3, 37-38] These thresholds are arbitrary and are too high. If you are concerned about a water body that doesn’t meet these thresholds, EPA needs to hear about it.
”¢ Protect drinking water and sensitive watersheds — The draft permit fails to make special considerations for pesticide applications directly into drinking water sources or into water bodies that feed drinking wells. When drinking water may be impacted by pesticide discharges, there should be more stringent limitations on pesticide use. The same should go for water bodies that serve as habitat for endangered or threatened species.
”¢ Strengthen site monitoring requirements — EPA should require meaningful water quality monitoring after pesticide applications in all cases, just like EPA requires for other sources of permitted water pollution. The draft permit does not require in-stream monitoring after pesticide applications; instead, the applicator need only conduct a visual “spot check,” and need only do that if the opportunity arises. [p. 14, 31]
”¢ Strengthen the public’s right-to-know — The public should have access — on EPA’s website and in state environmental agency offices — to all notices of intent to discharge pesticides, pesticide treatment planning documents, and monitoring data generated as part of the general permit process. The draft permit allows applicators to keep much of this information to themselves, or requires it to be disclosed only in the form of unhelpful summaries. [p. 19-25]
1. Submit Comments to EPA — Written comments must be received on or before Monday, July 19, 2010. Email your comments to email@example.com identified by the subject line: Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2010-0257. The more specific you can be about your own experiences and the water bodies you care about, the better.
2. Sign-on to Others Comments — Beyond Pesticides, Toxics Action Center, Pesticide Watch, Riverkeeper, National Environmental Law Center and many other groups are submitting detailed comments. The more people and groups signing on the better. See contact info below.
3. Distribute this Action Alert — and ask others to take action. Re-post on listserves and send to friends and family.
For more information
Nichelle Harriott, Research Associate, Beyond Pesticides, 202-543-5450
Sylvia Broude, Organizing Director, Toxics Action Center, 617-747-4407
Elizabeth Martin-Craig, Community Organizer, Pesticide Watch, 415-622-0036
Joe Mann, National Environmental Law Center, 415-622-0086 ext. 306
Sources: Toxics Action Center, Pesticide Watch, National Environmental Law Center, EPA