Group Decries EPA Decision to Exempt Pesticides from Clean Water Act

Nov 21, 2006, 00:00 ET from Beyond Pesticides

    WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- EPA today announced its decision to
 exempt pesticides from the Clean Water Act (CWA) and was immediately
 criticized by an environmental organization. Jay Feldman, executive
 director of Beyond Pesticides, a Washington-based public health and
 environmental group, said, "Studies, including one by the U.S. Geological
 Survey, Water Quality in the Nation's Streams and Aquifers-Overview of
 Selected Findings, 1991-2001, in 2006, suggest more protection is needed
 from pesticides not less."
     EPA's ruling allows exemption from the Clean Water Act under two
 specific situations where a permit with National Pollution Discharge
 Elimination System (NPDES) permit would not be necessary: (1) The
 application of pesticides directly to waters of the U.S. to control pests
 (such as mosquito larvae or aquatic weeds); and (2) The application of
 pesticides to control pests that are present over or near water and a
 portion of the pesticide can be deposited in lakes, rivers and streams.
     The statute EPA is relying on to protect water, the Federal
 Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), is a regulatory and
 licensing law that oversees the registration of pesticides and their
 application. It does not however regulate and oversee water quality and the
 protection of aquatic ecosystems in the local context, which is the
 distinct business of the CWA. Indeed, there is controversy over whether
 many of the precautionary statements on labels registered by FIFRA
 adequately protect public health and the environment from the application
 of toxic chemicals due to a lack of toxicity and impact studies. When FIFRA
 registers a pesticide it does not take into account heightened toxicity due
 to combinations of chemicals (mixtures and synergy), or the phenomenon of
 toxic chemical drift, which commonly occurs in aerial spraying.
     According to Beyond Pesticides, this EPA action today allows the weaker
 and more generalized standards under FIFRA to trump the more stringent CWA
 standards. CWA uses a kind of health-based standard known as maximum
 contamination levels to protect waterways and requires permits when
 chemicals are directly deposited into rivers, lakes and streams, while
 FIFRA uses a highly subjective risk assessment with no attention to the
 safest alternative.

SOURCE Beyond Pesticides