Daily News Archive
November 22, 2006
EPA Decision To Exempt Pesticides from Clean Water Act
Pesticides, November 22, 2006) EPA yesterday announced
its decision to exempt pesticides from the Clean Water Act
(CWA) and was immediately criticized by an environmental organization.
Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, a Washington-based
public health and environmental group, said, 'Studies, including one
by the U.S. Geological Survey, Water
Quality in the Nation's Streams and Aquifers-Overview of Selected Findings,
1991-2001, in 2006, suggest more protection is needed from
pesticides not less.”
EPA’s ruling allows exemption from the Clean Water Act
under two specific situations where a permit with the National Pollution
Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) would not be necessary: (1) The
application of pesticides directly to waters of the U.S. to control
pests (such as mosquito larvae or aquatic weeds); and (2) The application
of pesticides to control pests that are present over or near water where
a portion of the pesticide can be deposited in lakes, rivers and streams.
The statute EPA is relying on to protect water, the Federal Insecticide,
Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), is a regulatory and licensing
law that oversees the registration of pesticides and their application.
It does not however regulate and oversee water quality and the protection
of aquatic ecosystems in the local context, which is the distinct business
of the CWA. Indeed, there is controversy over whether many of the precautionary
statements on labels registered by FIFRA adequately protect public health
and the environment from the application of toxic chemicals due to a
lack of toxicity and impact studies. When FIFRA registers a pesticide
it does not take into account heightened toxicity due to combinations
of chemicals (mixtures and synergy), or the phenomenon
of toxic chemical drift, which commonly occurs in aerial spraying.
According to Beyond Pesticides, this EPA action today allows the weaker
and more generalized standards under FIFRA to trump the more stringent
CWA standards. CWA uses a kind of health-based standard known as maximum
contamination levels to protect waterways and requires permits when
chemicals are directly deposited into rivers, lakes and streams, while
FIFRA uses a highly subjective risk assessment with no attention to
the safest alternative.