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From July 14, 2005

Settlement Enables Washington Lakes to Receive Protections from Pesticides
(Beyond Pesticides, July 14, 2005) Due to a signed settlement agreement with the Washington State Toxics Coalition and People for Puget Sound, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) will dramatically increase protections for lakes from pesticide applications. In the settlement agreement, WSDA will stop allowing applications of herbicides directly to lakes to occur without permit approval from the state Department of Ecology (Ecology). Private individuals must now wait for Ecology to establish a new permit before they are able to apply herbicides to lakes.

"This agreement fixes a serious loophole that was allowing private individuals to put poisons directly in lakes that people swim in, with little opportunity for residents and others to stop harmful spraying," said Erika Schreder, staff scientist with the Washington Toxics Coalition."Putting pesticides into lakes should be a last resort, not a common occurrence."

According to Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) records, 75 separate herbicide applications were made to Lake Washington, including Portage Bay, in 2004. Many of those applications were for private homeowners.

"Salmon need clean water to thrive, and we won't have clean water as long as individuals can apply herbicides to our lakes with little or no justification," said Naki Stevens of People for Puget Sound. "We are looking forward to a new permit for aquatic herbicide use that makes sure the public is informed and can participate in decision-making."

The agreement settled a suit brought by Washington Toxics Coalition and People for Puget Sound against WSDA. The groups, represented by Richard Smith of Smith & Lowney LLC, brought suit against WSDA for failure to comply with the permit issued by Ecology for use of herbicides to control aquatic noxious weeds. WSDA had failed to comply with a number of permit requirements, and was extending its permit coverage to individuals and other entities with very little oversight. Meanwhile in Massachuettes, a ruling on pesticide use on lakes prompted an appeal by pesticide activists (See Daily News).

In a signed consent decree, WSDA agreed to stop extending its permit coverage to individuals and other entities. Herbicide applications under WSDA's permit will occur only for noxious weeds of statewide significance such as Spartina and purple loosestrife. WSDA will take a number of steps to ensure that all of those applications meet the requirements of the permit. In addition, Ecology has agreed to issue a new permit for aquatic pesticide use for noxious weeds, and has already started the process of developing the permit.

TAKE ACTION: Promote safe and effective alternatives to toxic chemical use in your community. Pesticides used in public lakes, parks, schools, office buildings and other public areas are a threat to public health. Learn how to take action by reading Beyond Pesticides' Community Organizing "How-to" fact sheets and Alternative Weed Management Strategies.