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From October 19, 2005                                                                                                           

Maine Permit Bolsters Arguments to Save the Clean Water Act
(Beyond Pesticides, October 19, 2005)
Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently issued a statewide general permit to allow the use of aquatic biological pesticides used to kill mosquito larvae despite recent arguments by industry and the EPA that such permits are unnecessary and redundant to protect local water quality.

By issuing the permit, the state DEP underscores the important role of the Clean Water Act’s regulatory mechanism, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), in the protection of local water bodies from the harmful application of pesticides.

Under the guise of protecting the public from West Nile virus, the EPA issued guidance that allows the use of any mosquito pesticide near, in or over waterways without the oversight of the CWA. EPA’s primary justification for the guidance is that pesticides are already regulated by their label under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Advocates argue that the unique environmental and water quality conditions present in any given local water body cannot sufficiently be protected simply by the pesticide label since the label is based on national averages of probabilistic modeling and toxicology data and does not specifically take into account issues of water quality or local conditions.

Although Maine’s DEP relied on language provided in its own state law rather than on the CWA’s NPDES program to issue the permit, the majority of states in the United States would likely need to use the program in order to carry out the same level of protection. The EPA’s removal of CWA’s NPDES permit process for pesticide use would leave a gap in the protection of water quality in most states.

Among other things, the Maine permit allows only specific biological pesticides to be used, restricts applications to very limited types of water bodies, and does not grant permission for aerial spraying.

Clean water and pesticide protection advocates point out that the permit acknowledges that biological and other pesticides are pollutants, and demonstrates that NPDES-type permitting of pesticides is consistent with protection of public health and can be accomplished without grinding state government or industrial activity to a halt.

To read more on this issue, see Beyond Pesticides Watchdogging page for comments submitted to EPA and Congress.

TAKE ACTION: The EPA and industry are attempting to roll back vital environmental protections that safeguard the health of local water bodies and communities provided by the Clean Water Act. After losing their battle in the courts, they have now turned to Congress to change the law. Even the Congressional bills that allocate funds for the rebuilding in Louisiana are including waivers of the Clean Water Act (and other instrumental environmental laws).Contact Beyond Pesticides with your name, address, phone and email to receive upcoming action alerts by email on how you can help save local water bodies and communities from exposure to dangerous pesticides, both in Louisiana and your backyard.