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Daily News Blog

05
Mar

North Dakota Oversight and Enforcement of Pesticide Law Found Deficient by Inspector General

(Beyond Pesticides, March 05, 2015) A federal audit has concluded that acceptable federal inspections at pesticide-producing establishments have not been conducted in North Dakota, possibly endangering the public and the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) independent Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report last week that finds the state lacks a state inspector with qualifications equivalent to a federal inspector who can conduct inspections on EPA’s behalf. As a result, North Dakota facilities that produce or handle pesticides have not been federally inspected for 14 years, and that about 1,300 pesticide imports that have come through the state since 2011 have not undergone federal inspections.

north dakota dept of agriculture“Without such inspections, residents in other states and locations in the United States, in addition to North Dakota, could be at risk,” according to the report signed by EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins Jr.

Staff at EPA Region 8 stated that inspections authorized under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) have not been conducted because North Dakota officials do not want federal inspections in their state. FIFRA (Section 7) gives EPA inspection authority and enables the agency to take enforcement actions against facilities that are not in compliance with the Act. Failure to conduct inspections increases the risk of pesticides not being in compliance with federal law, which could result in potential risks from toxics being undetected and adverse human health and environmental impacts occurring.

In a statement issued in response to the OIG report, EPA Region 8 said that it will make sure that some state inspectors are federally certified, but that the report from OIG “does not present an accurate or complete picture of the intensity of pesticides oversight and inspection activity conducted in the state.”

The OIG report has angered North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, who says the state is being treated unfairly by the federal agency.

“They don’t seem to understand or realize how you need to operate in the real world,” he said.

North Dakota’s Agriculture Department handles inspections of pesticide handlers in partnership with EPA, and receives funding from the federal agency for that work. However, the OIG report concluded that the agency should not accept “the state’s preference that federal inspections not be carried out in North Dakota.” The report adds that 14 years have passed since acceptable inspections of pesticide facilities in North Dakota have occurred. Mr. Goehring, on the other hand, asserts that about 680 proper inspections have been conducted in that time.

OIG recommends that the regional EPA office immediately begin handling inspections of pesticide handlers and imports in the state, or have them done by North Dakota inspectors with federal credentials. The state has not had a federally credentialed inspector since the last one retired two years ago.

The report “notes a specific concern with having inspectors operating in the state that are federally certified, and this is a concern that EPA Region 8 has committed to remedy as we move forward,” the regional office said in its statement. “It is worth noting that the state had a federally certified inspector on staff until their retirement in 2013 and is in the process of obtaining federal credentials for two state inspectors.”

Mr. Goehring said inspections of pesticide facilities handled by his office meet or exceed federal standards, and import inspections at the U.S.-Canada border have always been a federal responsibility, though the state has assisted when asked.

The regional EPA office said the OIG report “presents an incomplete picture of EPA activity” when it comes to import inspections. Mr. Goehring plans to consult with the regional EPA office and get federal credentials for at least one state inspector.

You can learn how to reduce your own pesticide footprint by checking out Beyond Pesticides’  Eating with a Conscience  website and choosing organic, which provides environmental and health benefits to consumers, workers, and rural families. The Eating with a Conscience database, based on legal tolerances (or allowable residues on food commodities), describes a food production system that enables toxic pesticide use both domestically and internationally, and provides a look at the toxic chemicals allowed in the production of the food we eat and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use. For more information on the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’  Organic Food program page.

Join us in person to help us continue the fight against pesticide use. This spring is Beyond Pesticides’  33rd National Pesticide Forum  in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

Source: The Fresno Bee

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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