Despite Judge's Order,
by Associated Press
Two and a half years after a federal judge in Seattle ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to warn consumers about lawn and garden chemicals that may harm salmon, anti-pesticide advocates have yet to see many warning signs or labels in stores.
After a January 2004 court order, the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides hoped to see warnings posted in thousands of stores in urban areas of Oregon, Washington and California, where the chemicals used to kill bugs and dandelions can work their way into streams used by threatened and endangered salmon.
The warning labels and a ban on farmers spraying near salmon streams were stopgap measures imposed by U.S. District Judge John Coughenour while the EPA was evaluating whether any of the chemicals should be banned. Those evaluations have not been completed.
The EPA and a chemical industry group have made four efforts in the past two years to get notices out to retailers, but spot checks of retailers and stores by The Associated Press and the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides found few posted.
"There is no authority we have to make sure it happens," EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones said by telephone from EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C. "We are doing our job. It's up to retailers to just take the responsible path."
In Seattle, the Washington Toxics Coalition checked a handful of stores and found that only the Fred Meyer in Burien had posted warnings after the most recent EPA effort to publicize the need for them, said Erika Schreder, staff scientist for the coalition.
She said stores that did not included McLendon Hardware in White Center, Home Depot in Delridge, Fred Meyer in Ballard and Greenwood, the Lowe's on Aurora Avenue North, the West Seattle True Value and Greenwood Hardware.
"We're really disappointed that it looks like EPA didn't get the right information to the right stores," Schreder said. "They sent them to the chain stores -- the Home Depots of the world -- but they didn't send them to the True Values and McLendons of the world. It's probably those more independent, small stores that are likely to be more responsive."
Corporate spokesmen for Home Depot and Fred Meyer stores and managers of two lawn and garden stores in Portland told the AP they had not seen any recent communication from the EPA. The Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides checked eight stores in Eugene and found two posted warnings.
The Salmon Protection and Watershed Network found four stores with signs out of 11 checked in western Marin County in California.
The warning says: "SALMON HAZARD. This product contains pesticides that may harm salmon or steelhead. Use of this product in urban areas can pollute salmon streams."
It is supposed to be posted with products containing 2,4-D, carbaryl, diazinon, diuron, malathion, triclopyr BEE, and trifluralin, all of which are commonly found in urban streams. Malathion, for example, is an insecticide found in tree sprays and causes spinal deformities in fish. The herbicide 2,4-D is often mixed with lawn fertilizer and disrupts sex hormones.
Coughenour ruled in 2002 that the EPA had violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the agency in charge of restoring endangered salmon, on the harmful effects of pesticides on salmon.
According to court records, the EPA published a Federal Register notice in March 2004 directing retailers to a pesticides industry Web site with printable copies of warning notices and an explanation. It also e-mailed the notice to 4,000 interested parties and created a special Web site. The chemical industry group CropLife, which had intervened in the EPA lawsuit, also mailed a letter and copies of the warning label to lawn and garden retailers.
After finding few signs posted in stores, the plaintiffs went back to the judge, and in October he directed the EPA to "consult in good faith" with the plaintiffs to mail out another notice and warning labels.
The mailing went out June 19 to a purchased list of 4,000 chain stores approved by the plaintiffs, said EPA spokeswoman Jones.
That's not exactly right, said Schreder of the Washington Toxics Coalition.
"They chose basically the big-box stores and convenience stores," she said. "We requested that they include hardware stores and nurseries, which they don't seem to have done."
Home Depot was not aware of the notices, spokesman Jerry Shields said from Atlanta, but he said it would post them when it got them.
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