EPA prepares to impose second set of buffers

Capital Press file photo The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed carbamate buffers around salmon and steelhead habitat in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California.

Pesticide groups object to EPA's goal of reducing carbamate use

By MITCH LIES

Capital Press

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced plans to impose no-spray buffers of between 25 and 1,000 feet around salmon-bearing streams for three carbamate pesticides.

Carbaryl, carbofuran and methomyl are the second set of pesticides the agency has reviewed in response to a lawsuit brought against the agency in 2001 by the Washington Toxics Coalition.

The buffers are proposed around salmon and steelhead habitat in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California.

The agency previously imposed buffers of between 100 and 1,000 feet for three organophosphates.

That decision is facing a court challenge from three pesticide manufacturers.

In a May 14 letter, the EPA informed the National Marine Fisheries Service that buffer sizes will vary based on wind speed at the time of application, droplet size and whether applications are made by ground or air.

EPA said in the letter it will follow the service's recommendation to prohibit the pesticides' application when wind speeds exceed 10 mph.

Similar to the organophosphate buffers, EPA said it will create a Web-based program that will allow pesticide users to input specifics of an application and obtain the relevant spray-drift buffer.

Also similar to the organophosphate buffers, carbamate buffers would be measured from the normal high-water mark of a stream.

Pesticide industry groups cited several areas of concern in EPA's letter, including that the agency at one point said it anticipates "these new use limitations will result in a significant reduction in use of (carbamate) pesticides."

"I'm not sure use reduction is an appropriate goal," said Heather Hansen, executive director of Washington Friends of Farms and Forests, a group that advocates for pest management issues. "Shouldn't their goal be to protect habitat? If a grower can do that in such a way that still protects their crops, shouldn't that be the real goal of the agencies?"

"I think the agencies have lost focus on what their real goal ought to be," she said.

Hansen also has issues with EPA informing NMFS it is requiring the pesticide manufacturers to monitor whether the new spray restrictions are protecting endangered salmon and steelhead.

"There already is so much monitoring that NMFS is refusing to use. This comes across as punitive," she said.

Hansen said the carbamate buffer proposal is a slight improvement from EPA's ruling with the organophosphates, given that dry stream beds are not subject to the buffers -- a departure from EPA's ruling on the organophosphates.

EPA is looking at reducing buffers from NMFS's recommendations. NMFS recommended buffers of between 200 and 600 feet for carbaryl and carbofuran and no less than 50 feet for methomyl.

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