From Green Right Now Reports

In a move that could limit overspraying for mosquitoes in U.S. towns and cities and reduce human and wildlife exposure to harmful pesticides, the EPA has proposed new rules that would require companies and municipalities to get special permits before dumping pesticides into waterways.

The agency hopes that these rules will reduce pesticide contamination of U.S. surface waters and improve the health of all living beings, including people.

The rules will require that entities spraying forests and neighborhoods for mosquitoes first test area waters for mosquito larvae to establish the need for control, and use less toxic, natural larval control when and where it’s considered effective.

If a pesticide is selected to manage mosquitoes or “flying insect pests” and is likely to contaminate waters, the agency or city applying the pesticides must:

  • Conduct larval and/or adult surveillance prior to each pesticide application to assess the pest management area and to determine when action threshold(s) are met that necessitate the need for pest management
  • Reduce the impact on the environment and on non-target organisms [translation: birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals, including humans] by applying the pesticide only when the action threshold has been met.
  • In situations or locations where practicable and feasible for efficacious control, use larvicides as a preferred pesticide for mosquito or flying insect pest control when larval action thresholds have been met

Regulators devised the proposed stricter permitting process following a federal court finding in April 2009 that determined pesticide discharges into U.S. waters were pollutants.

This seemingly obvious conclusion led the EPA to develop a plan for tighter regulation of “pesticide discharges” into waterways, which it already regulates under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). Companies and industries would be required to reduce their pesticide waste by using the lowest effective amount of pesticides, preventing leaks and spills and by monitoring their equipment for accidents.

The goal of the proposal is to “strike a balance between using pesticides to control pests and protecting human health and water quality,” said Peter S. Silva, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water, in a statement.

Many environmental groups have reported that the current approach taken by many cities toward mosquitoes — overspraying entire neighborhoods with pesticides targeting adult mosquitoes — are ineffective and needless spread carcinogenic chemicals on lawns and houses. Beyond Pesticides and others advocate for larval control, which involves killing mosquito eggs with less toxic bio-oils.

EPA estimates that the Pesticide General Permit (PGP) will affect approximately 35,000 pesticide applicators nationally that perform approximately half a million pesticide applications annually. The rules will apply to commercial and industrial firms as well as municipalities that use pesticides to control mosquito populations, kill algae in ponds and treat forest canopies with pesticides.

But it will not apply to households discharging pesticides, though state and local laws do control pesticide dumping into storm sewers and natural waterways by individuals.

The agency’s permit would cover:  (1) mosquito and other flying insect pest control; (2) aquatic weed and algae control; (3) aquatic nuisance animal control; and (4) forest canopy pest control.

It would not apply to land applications to control pests on agricultural crops or in forests.

The EPA will take public comments on the plan for 45 days after it is published in the Federal Register and hopes to finalize the permit in December 2010.

Once finalized, the pesticide general permit will be used in states, territories, tribal lands, and federal facilities where EPA is the authorized permitting authority, according to the EPA statement.

In the remaining 44 states, states will issue the pesticide general permits after working with EPA to develop their permits.