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Canceled Pesticide Kills Bald Eagles; Farmer Fined

(Beyond Pesticides, March 11, 2010) The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) determined that a pair of bald eagles were killed and a host of other wildlife were injured after an Allegany County farmer applied a highly toxic pesticide that has been canceled for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Following an investigation, the state DEC determined that the two bald eagles were poisoned after ingesting the improperly applied pesticide Furadan, or carbofuran, on his farm. The farmer and landowner, Richard Sekoll, was charged with and pleaded guilty to violating state pesticide laws and fish and wildlife laws and paid $3,000 in fines.

After receiving a call that two dead bald eagles were found near the Genesee River last fall, DEC began an investigation and sent the eagles to the department’s Wildlife Pathology Unit. Lab results showed that the birds died of poisoning from consumption of carbofuran, which occurred after the eagles consumed prey that had ingested the pesticide.

State officials with the DEC’s Division of Pesticides and the Division of Wildlife, as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assisted in the investigation, which found that a farm within 500 yards of where the dead eagles were recovered had purchased the pesticide Furadan in 2008. After obtaining a search warrant, DEC found 35 dead geese and two dead crows in a corn field at the farm. Samples of these birds were also sent to DEC’s Wildlife Pathology Unit for testing, where it was confirmed that they too died from consuming carbofuran.

Carbofuran, the active ingredient in Furadan, is a toxic insecticide that does not meet current U.S. food safety standards, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving forward to implement the agency’s May 2009 final rule revoking tolerances, or residue limits, for the pesticide. Thanks to public pressure and overwhelming scientific data showing harm, EPA says that it continues to find that dietary exposures to carbofuran from all sources combined are not acceptable.

According to EPA, the May 2009 final rule to revoke carbofuran tolerances, effective December 31, 2009, was the culmination of a regulatory process that began in 2006 when the agency published its risk assessments for carbofuran and determined in August 2006 that no uses were eligible for reregistration. While carbofuran maker FMC Corporation has voluntarily canceled 22 carbofuran uses, the elimination of these uses was not sufficient to allow the agency to make a finding that combined dietary exposure to carbofuran from food and water meet aceptable hazard standards. The process to cancel the remaining carbofuran registrations is under way and will address unacceptable risks to farmworkers during pesticide application and to birds in and around treated fields.

FMC Corporation and three grower associations (corn, sunflowers and potatoes) submitted objections to EPA’s tolerance revocations and requested an administrative hearing. EPA concluded in October 2009 that the regulatory standard for holding an evidentiary hearing had not been met. EPA’s detailed explanation about why a hearing was not warranted, and the reasons for denying the objections are included in Carbofuran; Order Denying FMC’s Objections and Requests for Hearing – November 18, 2009.

According to interviews, Mr. Sekoll had applied leftover Furadan to a cut sweet-corn field in order to use up the product that he purchased in 2008. Mr. Sekoll faces more than 40 charges by DEC Environmental Conservation Police:

• One count of failure to maintain annual records for restricted use pesticide applications.
• One count of failure to prevent the contamination of wildlife while using or applying a pesticide.
• One count of unlawful taking of a bald eagle (adult bird).
• One count of unlawful taking of a bald eagle (immature bird).
• 37 counts of taking wildlife in contravention to the Fish & Wildlife Law.

“DEC actively enforces pesticide laws in New York State in accordance with Environmental Conservation Law,” DEC Regional Police Captain David Bennett told reporters. “Even unintentional, improper use of pesticides can pose a serious threat to wildlife. It is extremely important for pesticide applicators to be familiar with and adhere to all applicable pesticide regulations and precautions each time pesticides are applied.”

If you suspect a pesticide has been illegally or improperly used, see Beyond Pesticides’ guide on what to do in a pesticide emergency. Beyond Pesticides monitors the effectiveness of state and federal enforcement programs, so we will know the real hazards associated with pesticides. Please tell us what happened and how well the state agency and EPA responded, or call our office at 202-543-5450 if you have any questions.

Sources: Wellsville Daily Reporter and The Buffalo News


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