Can EPA Permits Reduce Pesticide Discharge and Protect America’s Waters?

June 3, 2010

In America, we refer to the Midwest as the “breadbasket” of the country. The farms in this part of the U.S. products the majority of the corn, wheat, soy and other staple crops that keep the rest of us fed. Unfortunately, the excessive use of chemical pesticides and genetically modified seeds have also caused this part of the country to be one of the biggest sources of water pollution in the country.

To address this issue, the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a new permit requirement. This action is in response to an April 9, 2009 court decision that found that pesticide discharges to U.S. waters were pollutants, thus requiring a permit. (Um, DUH!)

More proof that pesticides are deadly when discharged into water supplies:

Ocean dead zones are areas of seafloor with far too little oxygen to sustain most marine life. The oxygen-starved waters have proliferated since the 1960s and now rank as one of the world’s most pressing environmental problems.

The largest dead zone today stems from the Mississippi River delta in the Gulf of Mexico. This is a site at the confluence of significant farming in the midwest and significant fishing (and shrimping) in the Gulf area. The dead zone spans east to west along the Louisiana and Texas coasts (

But the agricultural industry isn’t the only one at fault.  Municipal governments around America have allowed the widespread use of Atrazine, a common weedkiller, to jeopardize the safety of public water supplies all over the country. reports:

[Atrazine] is notorious for seeping into groundwater supplies and can be carried up to 600 miles on the wind. And studies suggest that even in low concentrations it causes low sperm count in men and increases  the chances of breast cancer and fertility problems in women, and birth defects and low birth weight in fetuses — which can, in turn, cause death.

The proposed permit would require all operators to reduce pesticide discharges by using the lowest effective amount of pesticide, prevent leaks and spills, calibrate equipment and monitor for and report adverse incidents. Additional controls, such as integrated pest management practices, are built into the permit for operators who exceed an annual treatment area threshold.

All seems like common sense, doesn’t it?

The EPA estimates that the pesticide general permit will affect approximately 35,000 pesticide applicators nationally that perform approximately half a million pesticide applications annually, especially:

  • mosquito and other flying insect pest control
  • aquatic weed and algae control
  • aquatic nuisance animal control
  • forest canopy pest control

If approved by the December 2010 deadline, this permit could have a huge impact on the amount of chemical pesticides allowed to leach into our creeks, rivers, lakes, and oceans.

But wait!

The EPA has specifically stated that the permit will not cover terrestrial applications to control pests on agricultural crops or forest floors.

If you think it should, plan on sharing your opinion during the Public Meetings, Webcast, and/or Hearing on the Proposed Permit (PDF).

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2 Responses to “ Can EPA Permits Reduce Pesticide Discharge and Protect America’s Waters? ”

  1. The Organic Homesteader on June 7, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    The Pro’s and Con’s of Going Organic…

    I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

  2. Beth Buczynski on June 7, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Thanks very much!

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