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From March 26, 2002

Lack of Water Quality Standards for Pesticides

The Office of Water and Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) need to talk more about how to address water quality impairments that are occurring, according to Robert Wayland, director of the Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds. The lack of water quality standards for maybe hundreds of pesticides illustrates the lack of intra-agency communication within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"You don't find what you don't look for," said Wayland. Without sufficient monitoring, a clear picture of the occurrence of pesticides in water cannot be obtained. EPA standards for water quality criteria, which are used as the foundation for state standards, are for a list of priority pollutants dating back to the 1970s. Many pesticides on the list are no longer used, and water quality criteria have not been set for more recently registered pesticides, according to Wayland.

The Clean Water Act has "somewhat limited" tools to address pesticide application, but permits under federal water law are not the best way to deal with pesticide risks. Wayland added that the pesticide registration system is a better way, but greater coordination is needed.

On March 12, in a presentation at a meeting of the Association of American Pesticide Control Officials, Wayland said that based on 1998 figures, 1,432 bodies of water were identified as impaired because of pesticide contamination. Contaminants include organochlorines, atrazine, chlorpyrifos, and other pesticides. The lower number of water bodies is not comforting, because states typically do not look for new pesticides now in use.

Wayland advised that coordination is needed between the pesticide program and water office, and state water agencies and state pesticide agencies. States need to obtain information from OPP about analytical methods to detect new pesticides and on environmental fate data and how pesticides move in the environment.

Source: Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.