02:00 PM

Senate Ag panel OKs spraying pesticides over water

Bill would allow pesticide users to dump toxic chemicals directly into waterways

Washington, D.C. (06/21/2011) -

The U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee approved H.R. 872 today, a bill that will exempt pesticide users who spray over waterways from the Clean Water Act. If passed, the legislation would reverse a 2009 federal court decision requiring pesticide users to obtain a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency in order to discharge pesticides directly into waterways.

The following is a statement from Jason Rylander, senior staff attorney for Defenders of Wildlife:

“Members of Congress should be making sure that our water is safe for drinking, swimming and fishing, not giving pesticide users carte blanche to continue poisoning the water that we all depend on. It’s bad enough that high levels of pesticides already make their way from farm fields into our waterways. But now the pesticide lobby, with the support of their allies in Congress, wants to make it easier to dump toxic chemicals directly into our rivers and streams. We call on the Senate to oppose any further action on this harmful bill.

“A federal appeals court already decided that current protections were insufficient to safeguard human health, our drinking water and aquatic wildlife. H.R. 872 flies in the face of that decision and puts us all at greater risk. Why should power plants have to get a permit for discharging toxic substances while pesticide users are free to pollute our waterways as much as they please? It simply doesn’t make any sense. Clean Water Act permits are badly needed in order to close this loophole.

“Chemical companies have tried to argue that they shouldn’t have to meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act, since pesticides are approved by the EPA. But EPA’s general approval does not take into account how each pesticide affects our already polluted waterways, nor does it factor in specific impacts on particular rivers and streams. In other words, rat poison may be OK to use in your house, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to dump in the creek behind your house. Many pesticides are also very dangerous water pollutants and must be treated as such.”


Pesticides discharged into U.S. waterways are known to cause severe developmental problems in fish and amphibians and may adversely affect human health. More than 1,000 waterways are considered “impaired” due to pesticide pollution. In a nationwide survey by the U.S. Geological Survey, pesticides were found in every single waterway they tested.


Read a letter from 14 environmental groups opposing S. 718 and H.R. 872

Learn more about what Defenders is doing to combat dangerous pesticide use


John Motsinger, 202-772-0288