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Help Protect Oregon Streams from Pesticides

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Help Protect Oregon Streams from Pesticides

Aerial Spraying Over Forests

The Clean Water Act requires permits for discharging pollutants to public waters. These permits create pollution limits and accountability for businesses, municipalities and individuals who discharge pollutants to our waterways. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), who administers the Clean Water Act in Oregon, is currently accepting public comments on a draft permit for pesticide use near wetlands, streams and rivers.  Please ask DEQ to make this permit stronger!

Many pesticides are known to cause a variety of detrimental affects to humans, fish, wildlife, plants, insects and water quality. According to the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Use Reporting System, nearly 20 million pounds of pesticides were used in Oregon in 2008. Currently, there is no Clean Water Act permit in Oregon that controls the application of pesticides near water. Rogue Riverkeeper is happy to see DEQ taking steps to correct this harmful gap in water protection.

Unfortunately, DEQ’s draft permit needs considerable improvement. Of great concern is that a significant amount of pesticide use in Oregon would not require permit coverage because the proposed threshold for coverage is so high. For instance, DEQ proposes 6,400 acres of annual treatment as the threshold for permit coverage for activities such as aerially spraying industrial timberlands. So timber companies can aerially spray 10 square miles of timberland with pesticides each year and be at, but not above, the threshold for this permit, therefore not requiring coverage. Industrial timberland covers 11% of the Rogue River basin. The Environmental Protection Agency’s threshold in its pesticide permit is 640 acres.

To give you an idea of the severity of the problem, in one 6-month period in 2009 in the Rogue Basin, one industrial timberland owner sprayed 1,347 acres with atrazine and other pesticides.  These applications included pesticide sprays over Wagner Creek, Emigrant Creek, Grave Creek, Last Chance Creek, the Rogue River itself and other streams in the Rogue Basin. Under DEQ’s draft permit, this aerial spraying would not require permit coverage. Atrazine is banned in the European Union, but is one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States. The adverse effects of atrazine have been documented in amphibians, fish, mammals, and humans-even at low levels of exposure.

Please click here and send an email to DEQ asking them to improve this Clean Water Act permit to protect Oregon streams, fish and all life from the effects of pesticides. Please send by 5pm on March 2nd.