Environmentalists Push Ahead with EPA Lawsuitby Associated Press
Capital Press - February 8, 2002
PORTLAND(AP) -- After settlement negotiations broke down, environmentalists said this week they were pressing ahead with a lawsuit to force the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce pesticide pollution in salmon streams.
Meanwhile, two groups involved in the lawsuit issued a new report based on government data saying the EPA has failed to meet its legal responsibilities to protect threatened and endangered salmon from pesticides, and five major watersheds in the West show a total of 16 pesticides exceeding levels set by the EPA.
The Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Washington Toxics Coalition and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman's Associations sued EPA a year ago in U.S. District Court in Seattle. They want to force the EPA to consult wiht the National Marine Fisheries Service, as required by the Endangered Species Act, over the effects on salmon of a wide range of pesticides.
Research has shown that pesticides at levels as small as a few parts per billion may not kill salmon directly, but can alter their behavior so they are less able to flee predators and reproduce.
Patti Goldman, an attorney for Earthjustice, the public interest law firm representing the plaintiffs, said they will now seek a court order forcing the EPA to protect salmon from pesticides, she said.
Bill Dunbar, Northwest regional spokesman for the EPA in Seattle, said, "The EPA in general, and in particular EPA region 10, recognizes that pesticides in the waters is a serious problem."
"Not enough has been done in the past. We are trying to make up for lost time.
"But there are 20,000 products of there, and at least a million and a half certified pesticide applicators. So it takes awhile to make the improvemnts that we clearly need."
In a report titled "Poisoned Waters," the two anti-pesticides groups compiled water samples gathered by the U.S. Geological Survey from five major watersheds: Puget Sound in Washington, the Central Columbia River in Washington and Idaho, the Willamette River in Oregon, the Sacramento and San Joaquin-Tulare watersheds in California.
The report said Puget Sound had seven pesticides exceeding levels to protect aquatic life, the Central Columbia had seven, the Willamette had 12, the Sacramento four, and the San Joaquin-Tulare had nine. In all, 16 different pesticides were found exceeding the level to protect aquatic life.
Beyond killing salmon, the pesticides can kill insects the young fish feed on, as well as streamside vegetation that stabilizes riverbanks and keeps the water cool, the report said.
Erika Schreder, of the Washington Toxics Coalition, said federal agencies must consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service to ensure their actions do not harm endangered species.
"What we show in our report is that EPA made determinations for 36 pesticides likely to cause problems for salmon, yet EPA failed to act on its own findings to restrict those pesticide uses."
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