Department of Ag Audit Calls for Notification and Increased Monitoring
of Urban Areas
(Beyond Pesticides, March 14, 2006) The State of Minnesota’s Office of the Legislative Auditor just released an evaluation of its State Department of Agriculture’s pesticide-related activities concluding that few people have access to the pesticide application records required by law, and not enough has been done to monitor the use and effects on nonagricultural pesticide use in urban areas. Furthermore, the Department only partially fulfills its statutory obligation to collect pesticide wastes and needs to improve their evaluation of enforcement actions.
According to the audit, information on pesticide applications comes from records maintained by pesticide applicators and, in limited circumstances such as mosquito and gypsy moth treatments, by advance notice or the posting of notification signs. In Minnesota, like many states, the records on applications are not available to the public and only the Department of Agriculture, customers and physicians and veternarians have legal access. A key recommendation of the audit includes requiring advance notification for applications toxic to bees, and an evaluation of the feasibility of notification where applications could threaten human health or pose serious economic harm.
Another key recommendation includes increased monitoring activities for sensitive urban areas.
According to the Grand Forks Herald, two lawmakers said the audit didn't go far enough. Rep. Mary Ellen Otremba, Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL)-Long Prairie, renewed her call for legislation that would allow Minnesota residents access to information about pesticides applied near their homes. Otremba said constituents in her farming area have been exposed to unknown chemicals and then forced to wait while a doctor contacted the Agriculture Department to find out what the substances were. "We just want to know what you're spraying so we can deal with it," she said.
And Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, said auditors should have focused on pesticides in residential drinking wells that are already contaminated with nitrates, which come from fertilizers, feedlots and other sources."Can we tell the moms and dads in Minnesota that it's safe for their kids to drink well water?" she said.
The Herald goes on to explain “farm and lawn chemicals have been controversial in Minnesota, where students discovered deformed frogs 11 years ago; studies later suggested that pesticide-contaminated water caused the deformities.” The full audit report can be found at Minnesota Department of Agriculture Audit 2006.