EPA Limits Three Pesticides to Protect Salmonby Matthew Preusch
The Oregonian, September 11, 2009
The federal government, acting to protect endangered fish, is setting up new rules to limit where and when orchardists, farmers and others can use some common pesticides.
More than half of Oregon is drained by a creek or river relevant to one of the 28 federally protected Pacific salmon runs. Because pesticides that run off from agricultural lands have been shown to harm the fish, the government is obligated to regulate their use.
The rules, coming from the Environmental Protection Agency, follow from a decision last year by the National Marine Fisheries Service to require limits on three common pesticides -- chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion -- in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California.
"It could have significant impact," said Terry Witt, executive director of Oregonians for Food and Shelter, because the restrictions could reduce the productivity of valuable crop land in places such as the Willamette Valley that are braided with salmon streams.
"This is a class of chemicals that is widely used in most crops threatened by insects," said Witt, whose group lobbies against government regulations affecting natural resource industries.
The new regulations include: no-spray zones near waterways; a prohibition from spraying when wind is more than 10 mph; a buffer of non-crop plantings next to salmon streams; prohibitions on spraying after or during rain storms; requirements to report fish deaths that follow spraying; and a monitoring program funded by the pesticide industry.
Those regulations came about after salmon advocates sued the government to pressure federal agencies to set pesticide standards near fish-bearing waterways.
EPA's proposal, announced Friday, varies from what the fisheries agency recommended by creating a tiered system for spray buffers, which worries environmental groups.
The size of the buffer required will vary depending on factors such as the kind of waterway that's nearby and the amount of pesticide being applied.
"We have a real concern that pesticide users are going to have difficulty finding out what applies to them," said Joshua Osborne-Klein, an attorney for the environmental law firm Earthjustice.
The pesticides in question, categorized as organophosphates, are widely used.
Diazinon is found in 13 products registered in Oregon, while chlorpyrifos is in 61and malathion is in 36, said Janet Fults, pesticide program manager at the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
Those affected by the rules should be able to find alternative pesticides or non-toxic treatments to replace the chemicals, Fults said.
The restricted pesticides' "use has been reduced due to new products coming on the market; however, there is a certain amount of use throughout the state," Fults said.
In some cases, finding a substitute could be difficult. For example, the department says there is no good replacement for diazinon's effectiveness against soil pests in certain fruit and vegetable crops.
The three pesticides are the first of 37 the EPA has asked the fisheries agency to investigate for their impact on fish protected by the Endangered Species Act.
"Our goal is to rebuild the healthy salmon stocks native to the Pacific Northwest," Earthjustice's Osborne-Klein said in a statement. "Getting agricultural poisons out of salmon spawning streams is one of many needed actions to see the salmon stocks rebuilt."
Used on: Grass seed, berries, nurseries, squash
Harmful effects: Highly toxic to fish and known to kill birds
Pounds used in Oregon in 2007: 41,948
Used on: Pastures, hay, berries, hazelnuts, wheat, and for mosquito control
Harmful effects: Malathion breaks down into highly toxic byproducts.
Pounds used in Oregon in 2007: 92,095
Used on: Christmas trees, strawberries, sweet corn
Harmful effects: Suspected to disrupt endocrine system
Pounds used in Oregon in 2007: 232,507
Sources: Oregon Department of Agriculture, U.S. Geological Survey, National Pesticide Information Center
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