District Judge Orders Water-Polluting Pesticides Restricted
(Beyond Pesticides, July 21, 2003) In a major victory for fishing and conservation groups, Federal District Court Judge John Coughenour has issued an order indicating that he will impose restrictions on 54 pesticides whose uses contaminate water and harm endangered salmon species. A press release from the non-profit public interest environmental law firm, Earthjustice, states that in July 2002, Judge Coughenour ruled that EPA was out of compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with respect to pesticides that pose a threat to salmon. The judge ordered EPA to begin the process of bringing its pesticide authorizations into compliance with the law.
Because complying with the proper testing and scientific monitoring standards of the 54 pesticides in question will take EPA an unknown amount of time, fishing and environmental groups asked the judge to establish interim measures to protect the salmon from the toxic chemicals; specifically to set buffer zones to aerial and ground applications of the pesticides. The order states "plaintiffs are entitled to interim injunction relief to avoid jeopardy of threatened and endangered salmonids." The judge acknowledged, "the plaintiffs have demonstrated, with reasonable scientific certainty, that the requested buffer zones will, unlike the status quo, substantially contribute to the prevention of jeopardy."
Erika Schreder of the Washington Toxics Coalition reiterated the importance of the ruling with, "salmon can't escape pesticides and the harm they cause in our rivers and streams."
On August 14, the court will hold a hearing to determine the specific sizes and locations of the buffer zones required when using certain pesticides. A final ruling is expected to follow shortly after the August hearing.
For further information contact the plaintiffs in the case: Washington Toxics Coalition (206) 632-1545, Earthjustice (Seattle Office) (206) 343-7340. Information about EPA's pesticide policies can be viewed at http://www.epa.gov/pesticides.