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EPA Proposes New Permit Requirements for Pesticide Discharges

September 1st, 2010

New Permit Requirements for Pesticide Discharges

In June 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Through the permitting process, the EPA is seeking to decrease the amount of pesticides discharged into waterways. The new permit, also known as the Pesticides General Permit (PGP), was developed in response to a 2009 court decision, which ruled that pesticides can be classified as pollutants under the Clean Water Act.

The EPA’s PGP authorizes the controlled release of the following substances into U.S. waterways:

(1) Biological pesticides; and

(2) Chemical pesticides that leave a residue from the following use patterns:

  • Mosquito and Other Flying Insect Pest Control — To control public health/nuisance and other flying insect pests that develop or are present during a portion of their life cycle in or above standing or flowing water. Public health/nuisance pests in this use category include, but are not limited to, mosquitoes and black flies.
  • Aquatic Weed and Algae Control — To control weeds and algae in water and at water’s edge.
  • Aquatic Nuisance Animal Control — To control invasive or other nuisance species in water and at water’s edge. Aquatic nuisance animals in this use category include, but are not limited to, fish, lampreys, and mollusks.
  • Forest Canopy Pest Control — To control the population of forest canopy pest species, including insects and pathogens, using aerial pesticides.

This draft permit does not provide coverage for other pesticide use patterns; however, the EPA is still exploring whether others should be included.

The EPA plans to finalize the PGP in December 2010 and expects it to take effect in April 2011. Once finalized, the PGP will be enforceable in six states, along with U.S. territories, tribal lands, and federal facilities where the agency is the authorized permitting authority. In the 44 states where is the EPA is not the authorized permitting authority, the EPA is working closely with regulators to develop their permits; however, according to the EPA, these states are free to incorporate additional requirements to the permitting process that they feel are necessary to protect water quality. The EPA estimates that the ruling will affect approximately 365,000 pesticide applicators nationwide, which account for 5.6 million pesticide applications annually.

The EPA expects the burden on small businesses to be minimal, especially since the Clean Water Act exempts agricultural storm water runoff and irrigation return flow from NPDES permitting requirements.

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