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Aquatic Pesticide Application Rules Loosen

A helicopter applies herbicide to an area affected by invasive aquatic growth in Florida.
Photo: University of Florida

The Environmental Protection Agency has ruled that some pesticides can be applied over and near bodies of water without a permit under the federal Clean Water Act.

The new rule applies to two situations only:

  • pesticides are applied directly to water to control pests, including mosquito larvae, aquatic weeds and other pests in the water
  • pesticides are applied to control pests that are present over or near water where a portion of the pesticide will unavoidably be deposited to the water in order to target the pests effectively

After considering two rounds of public comments, EPA concluded that the Clean Water Act does not require permits in these two situations.

Applications of pesticides that violate instruction labels remain subject to enforcement.

The Nov. 21 decision brought immediate criticism from an environmental watchdog group and from a senator involved in environmental issues. They said it would make it easier to pollute the nation's lakes and streams.

But the EPA said the two specific circumstances in which clean water permits no longer will be needed will add to public health by allowing for better eradication of pests.

Under the rule, pesticides can be applied directly into water or sprayed nearby or onto foliage over water without a pollution permit if the application is needed to control aquatic weeds, mosquitoes or other pests.

Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the permitting exemption will lead to more toxic pollution getting into lakes and streams. He said a billion pounds of pesticides are used annually in the United States "and much of it ends up in our waterways."

"We must strengthen, not weaken, our policies and laws that prevent pesticides from polluting rivers, streams, lakes and our underground water supplies," Jeffords said.

Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, a private public health and environmental advocacy group, called the ruling a weakening of federal protection because the Clean Water Act set limits on the maximum contamination levels that would be allowed to protect waterways.

"More protection is needed from pesticides, not less," said Feldman.

Source: MSNBC,

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June 18, 2019, 8:40 am PDT

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