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North Carolina’s Drift Policy In Danger
(from November 7, 2002)

North Carolinians currently enjoy some legal protections in their homes, schools and on public roads from aerially sprayed pesticides. They live in a state that has a zero tolerance for drift at certain distances from such applications. Even though these buffer zones are disputed as not enough protection, these zones are in danger of being replaced with a weaker ruling that will allow a maximum pesticide residue, reports Pesticide and Toxic Chemical News. North Carolina’s current rules do not allow aerially sprayed pesticides to drift within 100 feet of homes and 300 feet of facilities such as schools and nursing homes. Nor is drift allowed on right-of-ways of public roads, or within 25 feet of the road. The new proposal would allow a level of six parts per million (ppm) on these sites if the homeowners and facilities gave permission.

Environmental groups in North Carolina are expected to put up a strong fight to stop the legislation’s potential enactment. James Burnette, North Carolina’s Pesticide Administrator, commented that the ruling would essentially be telling the public that “there may be some level of pesticide on their property and we wouldn’t automatically proceed against an applicator for negligence.”

In order to arrive at the residue allowance of six ppm, a survey was done by Aventis CropScience and NC State University, with results adjusted for children’s health protection. This figure of six ppm is questionable. Although their survey showed that residue levels rarely exceeded six ppm, inspectors testing residues levels “are rarely at the site of application when the application occurs.” James Burnette commented, “Sometimes it’s weeks or months before we’re called in [for complaint response]. If we’re called out long after the application, and our sampling detects residues of a product at six ppm, common sense tells you that the residues were greater before we sampled.” Of the consequences of such calculations he said, “We’ll never be able to settle enforcement cases [on the basis of back-calculating residues] because the court would throw it out.”

Several public hearings were held in October on the proposal and one is scheduled for November 12 in Raleigh, and will also include a meeting of the Pesticide Board. Still ahead of the proposal after the hearings is another review board and review by a special committee of the General Assembly all of which could take two years or more.

The Agricultural Resources Center (ARC) recently released a report, Bitter Rains, that included their recommendations to the state of North Carolina for drfit policy. In addition to the use of buffer zones in current law, that are now under attack, ARC suggests implementation of notification of aerial applications to neighbors and affected individuals, enforcement of more stringent buffer zones, and codified regulations that prohibit aerial pesticide spraying when conditions favor drift. Bitter Rains is available to read here.

View the proposal for a residue allowance at www.agr.state.nc.us/fooddrug/pesticid/index.htm. For tips on what you can do to help, including sample letters to officials, see http://www.ibiblio.org/arc/aerial.htm.