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Daily News Blog

27
Jan

Clean Water Protections In Trouble Again In the Senate

(Beyond Pesticides, January 27, 2016) Last week the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee added an amendment to the Sportsman Act of 2015 that would remove important protections from pesticides sprayed into our nation’s waterways. After years of failed attempts to pass a version of the amendment as a stand-alone bill called the “Sensible Environmental Protection Act,” the latest attack against clean water was put forth by Senator Deb Fisher (R-NE), and passed by a committee vote of 12-8. It now moves to the Senate floor in a piece of bipartisan legislation.

Capitol-SenateThis amendment would reverse a 2009 federal court decision in National Cotton Council v. EPA that directed EPA to require permits from applicators who spray over “navigable waters,” as outlined in the Clean Water Act (CWA). The bill’s proponents claim that the need for water permits is duplicative, given that pesticide applicators also comply with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the law that requires applicators to follow instructions on pesticide labels.

However, the fact is that CWA permits let authorities know what is sprayed and when it is sprayed, so that the public may know what chemicals are used in their waterways and the potential dangers to sensitive aquatic ecosystems. Existing pesticide regulations under FIFRA do not achieve these protections and, contrary to the assertions made by supporters of the bill that it will harm farmers, most agricultural pesticide applications are exempt from CWA permit requirements.

Under this dangerous amendment to the Sportsman Act of 2015, pesticide applicators would be able to discharge pesticides into waterways with no EPA oversight under the standards of the CWA and the permitting process, which takes into account local conditions that are not addressed under FIFRA. Furthermore, permits do not prevent applicators from using pesticides, especially for public health emergencies. The permits do require basic protections for water quality and aquatic wildlife. Applicators must simply record their pesticide applications and monitor application sites for any adverse incidents, which must be reported. For many states, the cost of the permit is as low as $25. The myth that the CWA permits for pesticide discharges near waterways are overly expensive and burdensome for farmers has not been substantiated.

Already, nearly 2,000 waterways are impaired by pesticide contamination and many more have simply not been tested. The potentially high cost of public health problems, environmental clean-up efforts, and irreversible ecological damage that can result from unchecked, indiscriminate pollution of waterways is being ignored by opponents of CWA regulation.

Recent studies showing frequent discoveries of intersex fish in our nation’s rivers and streams as a result of the use of endocrine disrupting pesticides drives this point home. Hundreds of  scientific articles  have been published across the globe demonstrating how  a broad selection of chemicals that disrupt the hormone system can interfere with normal development at even near-undetectable ranges of exposure. Scientists discovered effects for some widely used chemicals at concentrations thousands of times less than federal “safe” levels of exposure derived through traditional toxicological tests. Whatever the exposure level, neither fish nor human are protected from most endocrine-disrupting chemicals present in our waterways.

The reality is that including a CWA permitting process encourages pesticide users to seek alternative approaches to pest management if their current methods are going to contaminate nearby sources of water. Such a provision is not duplicative or burdensome, but simply an example of good governance.

Beyond Pesticides continues to fight to prevent water pollution and harmful agricultural practices. Visit our Threatened Waters page and learn how organic land management practices contribute to healthy waters in the article, “Organic Land Management and the Protection of Water Quality.”

Source: Feedstuffs

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

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