November 22, 2006 — By H. Josef Hebert,
WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency
announced Tuesday that pesticides can be applied over and near bodies of water
without a permit under the federal Clean Water Act. The decision brought
immediate criticism from an environmental watchdog group and from a senator
involved in environmental issues. They said it would make it easier to pollute
the nation's lakes and streams.
But the EPA said the two specific
circumstances in which clean water permits no longer will be needed will add to
public health by allowing for better eradication of pests.
water rule strengthens and streamlines efforts of public health officials and
communities to control pests and invasive species while maintaining important
environmental safeguards," said Benjamin Grumbles, the EPA's assistant
administrator for water-related issues.
Under the rule, pesticides can
be applied directly into water or sprayed nearby or onto foliage over water
without a pollution permit if the application is needed to control aquatic
weeds, mosquitoes or other pests.
Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., the ranking
member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the permitting
exemption will lead to more toxic pollution getting into lakes and streams. He
said a billion pounds of pesticides are used annual in the United States "and
much of it ends up in our waterways."
"We must strengthen, not weaken,
our policies and laws that prevent pesticides from polluting rivers, streams,
lakes and our underground water supplies," Jeffords said in a statement.
Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, a private public
health and environmental advocacy group, called the ruling a weakening of
federal protection because the Clean Water Act set limits on the maximum
contamination levels that would be allowed to protect waterways.
protection is need from pesticides, not less," said