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Thursday, March 4, 2010

The truth about the state’s new, proposed mosquito permit

By Sandy Howard

Right now, some Mosquito Control Districts across the state believe Ecology is going to ban them from spraying this season. This is not accurate.

Ecology is working to update the state’s Aquatic Mosquito Control General Permit. The new permit we expect to finalize by June would allow the use of insecticides to control adult mosquitoes that carry diseases such as West Nile virus.

We are currently conducting a full public process on this change and we invite your opinion.

Here is the backdrop:
Federal court decisions and the federal Clean Water Act require Ecology to issue a permit anytime pollutants are discharged into our waters.

Under the current permit, it’s illegal for any incidental discharge of insecticides into water control adult mosquitoes. This will remain illegal until Ecology can issue a new permit that addresses this.

We need to change the current permit to keep us in a legal position to protect human health should a need arise to control mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus.

Ecology’s new, proposed permit will continue to allow the use of pesticides to control nuisance mosquitoes as long as pesticides don’t get into waters of the state.

The permit will continue to allow the use of larvacides to kill mosquito larvae, which is the most effective way to control mosquitoes.

Aquatic pesticide permits provide important public health and environmental benefits. The same insecticides that target adult mosquitoes are also toxic to aquatic animals. They are extremely toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms, including mayflies, caddisflies and other important invertebrates in aquatic food webs. They can harm threatened and endangered salmon.

For more information about the current and proposed permits, visit Ecology’s website. To learn more about West Nile virus, visit the Department of Health’s website.

If you have comments about Ecology’s proposed permit, we invite you to attend a public workshop and hearing we’re holding at 1 p.m. March 9 at the Moses Lake Fire Department, 701 E. Third Ave. Email your comments about the proposed permit to Jon Jennings at jonathan.jennings@ecy.wa.gov or mail them to Jon at Mosquito Control Permit Comments, Department of Ecology, Water Quality Program, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA 98504. Our deadline to receive comments is 5 p.m. on March 17.

14 comments:

bobby said...

I don't think this is correct. the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals heard cases consolidated from several circuit courts across the country (including the 9th)regarding whether an EPA Rule was a correct interpretation of the CWA. The EPA Rule stated pesticides applied according to their label were not pollutants as defined under the CWA. The 6th struck down the EPA Rule, but also granted a 2 year stay (until April of 2011) meaning that applications applied according to their label are not considered pollutants at this time.
Isn't this correct?

Mosquito said...

The labels on mosquito control products do say that they are toxic to fish and aquatic non-vertebrates. Toxicity is not the same as risk. If you have a product that is toxic to a fish, but there is minimal exposure, the resulting risk is low.

The next line on the product label states that the products can be used over water to target adult mosquitoes when weather conditions facilitate movement away from the water to minimize incidental deposition. The label restrictions are more than adequate to compensate for possible hazards to aquatic organisms.

As far as the spray being bad for the salmon, please find one study that shows that .75 oz per acre of mosquito spray causes harm to aquatic animals or fish. The studies that show the products DO NOT harm non-target organisms have been made available to Ecology and are listed on the permit fact sheet. EPA registered products such as these cause “no unreasonable harm to human health or the environment.” The fact sheet also states that the products used to spray disease mosquitoes "do not have reasonable potential to voilate water quality standards." The products used to kill non-disease carrying mosquitoes are exactly the same, yet that type of spraying is prohibited near water.

bobby said...

I also have to wonder if the heading is a bit misleading. Is what Ms. Howard said the "truth" about the state's new, proposed mosquito permit? It appears there is a lack of objectivity......

Sandy Howard said...

In response to bobby's post of 3/11 at 7:32 a.m. -- It is true that the 6th circuit court of appeals heard cases consolidated from many circuit courts across the country (including the ninth circuit court of appeals). The sixth circuit court struck down EPA’s rule which means that the discharge of pesticides and pesticide residues into surface waters requires a Clean Water Act Permit. The EPA requested the sixth circuit court stay their ruling to provide EPA and the states time to develop pesticide permits. The court did agree to a two year stay to allow EPA and states time to develop permits.

There are two issues with the sixth circuit courts 2 year stay: first, the ninth circuit court’s decision in Headwaters Inc. v. Talent Irrigation District still stands – the discharge of pesticides or pesticide residues to surface waters requires a Clean Water Act Permit. The second issue is the 6th circuit court issued the stay to provide EPA and States time to write pesticide discharge permits. Washington already has a permit for pesticide discharges associated with mosquito control. This permit authorizes the discharge of larvicides only. When the permit was first developed in 2002 and again when it was renewed in 2007 the inclusion of insecticides to kill adult mosquitoes was considered but not included.

bobby said...

I think the EPA rule still stands, which stated pesticides applied in accordance to their labels were not pollutants....to then suggest that applications currently being made are illegal is not true.
And the 9th did not rule that ALL pesticide applications are illegal. In fact, in Fairhurst vs Hegener the 9th ruled that since the product applied (antimycen) did not leave an unintended residue the discharged chemical was not a pollutant and therefor did not require an NPDES permit.

Sandy Howard said...

Despite what some news organizations are reporting today, the state is not trying to stop mosquito spraying. We are trying to make it legal to spray to control adult mosquitoes in time for mosquito season. We need to be ready for this mosquito season, and to be ready to curb diseases that mosquitoes can spread, such as West Nile virus.

We had a large turnout for a public hearing in Moses Lake about the proposed permit. This big turnout is a sign of a robust and meaningful public process. We are listening to all who have taken time to give us comments, and we appreciate all the comments we have received so far.

Your feedback is very useful to us. It will help us develop the new permit that works for you – one that protects people and the environment.

If you have comments about this proposed permit, we need to hear from you by 5 p.m., March 17. The website tells you how you can comment.
Go to this link to find out more:

www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/pesticides/final_pesticide_permits/mosquito/mosquito_index.html

Sandy Howard
Washington State Department of Ecology

mike said...

How interestingly that the conversation is on potential legal interpetation on this blog.
Perhaps the residents of Washington might consider a more local control of mosquito`s such as DDT or candles that burn natural chemicals around their immediate enviroment than a free-for-all way of killing all insects in their natural habitat with potential harmful chemicals.
Since Lyme disease is spread by ticks that use deer as vectors, and then on to humans potentially, by the Department of Ecology logic we should kill deer. Or perhaps outdoor pet dogs and cats that harbour ticks are vectors for ticks. After all I might get Lyme disease from ticks that feed on a pet or a deer and I do not wish that, so remove the vector, such as deer or pets, with toxic chemicals to the enviroment.
It is obvious to any lay observer the population of amphibians is in decline along with many bird species that feed (and face life or death decisions each day in raising their young or in migration to bring insects to their nests) or to migrate outside the USA. I am only mentioning two of the many non human species that can be effected by a broad based use of harmful chemicals.
It is stated that these harmfull chemicals do not affect the enviroment--who says, studies paid for by the chemical industry?

Ron said...

Mike,

Deer are not "vectors" of Lyme disease. They are natural reservoirs or hosts. There are cases where deer populations have been thinned to reduce the spread of Lyme disease.

Can you cite your source for claiming that amphibian and bird reductions are related to pesticides?

mike said...

(Response to Ron) First of all I made an error by using the term DDT in my prior post. I met to write DEET (probably shows my age). Vector definition from I phone dictionary -“any agent that acts as a carrier or transporter, as a virus or plasmid”. I believe this fits the definition of an animal, i.e. deer, which acts as a transporter of Lyme disease. Then, your statement that “deer populations have been thinned to reduce the spread of Lyme disease” makes sense but is hardly desirable or appropriate in the Pacific NW where Lyme is relatively rare. I doubt if the public in Washington State would agree to kill Bambi to control Lyme disease, but since insects are nearly always considered a pest by humans, let’s kill em, since they are unimportant…and besides they sometimes bite me.
My point I was attempting to make, perhaps poorly, is that when humans attempt to over control nature, there are obviously ramifications that may involve other species than just our comfort or fear of disease, which is how most people evaluate the issue of pesticides.
Regarding studies involving the decrease in amphibian and bird populations because of the use of pesticides, it does not take a (rocket) scientist who has sat out by a pond or small lake in the evenings to watch the swallows and swifts eat mosquitoes and other aquatic insects and then fly to their nests and feed their young. Not to mention when the same swallows or swifts migrate from Canada and Washington to Mexico or Latin America and require constant food to fly the distances they do. Now if the State, or a farmer or city dweller, spreads an insecticide poison either in the pond or in the soil or sprays the insecticide by a plane or is blown in off dry soil into the pond, would not it make sense that by killing the insects that this affects the bird population? There is so much we do not know other than the fact that birds, based upon breeding bird census over the years, have shown a large statistical decline in native North America bird populations. I see evidence of that when I go running along fields and bird in the prairies. Amphibians are very sensitive to poisons in their environment since their skin is absorptive in nature. Any high school biology book mentions that fact and certainly you must be aware of reports of declining amphibian populations such as the Western tree frog. I again see empirical evidence of this on my own 5, heavily wooded acreage compared to when I moved here 17 years ago. The fact is, amphibians and most native bird populations are in decline because of habitat loss, lack of adequate food supply to maintain a viable population, and the impact of un natural barriers, such as wind farms and roaming house cats. There are a multitude of factors impacting the natural world which we have done a poor job of understanding the long term impact before we act.
It does not take a scientific study over time to show the effects of population growth and habitat loss, uncontrolled use of pesticides and herbicides in the environment, in particular since many studies showing lack of harm of these very chemicals are funded by the chemical industry and over short periods of time.
Just because the Department of Ecology has recommendations and rules regarding pesticides (and herbicides) involving water does not mean the same poisons will be used correctly along water courses, or drain into ponds and our drinking supplies or streams, or be blown in off soil into ponds and water courses many miles away .

Ron said...

Mike,

Bambi is a creation of Walt Disney and does not really exist, just like the scientific evidence to back up your claims about pesticides altering the balance of nature.

Ecology has a responsibility to regulate the Clean Water Act. I understand that Ecology already has 6000+ NPDES permits in place. Each of these permits allow the permit holder to discharge pollutants into waters of the state. Many of these permits allow the discharge of toxins that are detrimental to fishes and other aquatic life. Mosquito Control programs are seeking a permit that allows discharge of pesticides into waters of the state (which the EPA has approved on the pesticide label) for a public health purpose, before mosquitoes are making people and animals sick. There are scientific studies (not paid for by a chemical company) that have evaluated the proposed application. I would be happy to cite the studies if you would like them.

mike said...

Ron I am glad you are a fan of Walt Disney but realize Bambi was a fictional deer. Thank you for your subtle way of pointing that out to me.
I find it interesting as you are obviously a man of science that you would state in your reply to me: (Quote) “applying pesticides to water before mosquitoes are making people and animals sick”. I did not know mosquitoes make people sick; I thought they were a vector for a virus or disease which, in turn, causes people to get sick. Do mosquitoes make people or animals sick? I do not think so.
In relation to your comment regarding scientific effect of pesticides on bird populations, I would suggest you Google “declining native bird populations”. Just typing in that term gives you over 230,000 hits. I will quote one specific section:
http://www.flyingwild.org/documents/108-111.pdf
Several other popular pesticides still used in the U.S. are lethal to birds. Over 40 active
Ingredients in pesticides used today have been linked to migratory and resident bird population
die-offs, involving anywhere from one to 2,000 to 20,000 individuals. Given their proven toxicity
to wildlife, six chemicals (all organophosphates or carbamates) are of particular concern to the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. All are used in crop production and one in particular, Diazinon,
is commonly used for home lawn care. The others are Aldicarb, Azinphos-methyl, Carbofuran,
Ethyl Parathion, and Phorate. All of these insecticides kill pests by damaging their central nervous
systems. Unfortunately, these insecticides have the same action on non-target invertebrates,
fish, and wildlife.
Another insecticide group that has seen increased use recently is the pyrethroids. These are
synthetic formulations of naturally occurring pesticides and have low to medium toxic effects;
birds and mammals can break the chemicals down and pass them through their bodies rapidly.
However, pyrethroids are highly toxic to fish, which have shown a high sensitivity to this chemical.
Many pesticides may not kill birds on contact, yet they can contaminate food and water. The
non-target animal may then ingest them and exhibit a sub-lethal effect that impairs the bird,
preventing it from avoiding a predator, feeding its family, or finding shelter from inclement
weather. The chemicals of concern can affect a bird’s nervous system and can disorient it enough
so it cannot find its way to its wintering ground. Pesticides also are blamed for weakening
immune systems, and causing reproductive failure or birth defects in surviving offspring (such
as twisted beaks or abnormal estrogen levels). Many Americans consume low levels of pesticides
in their drinking water at some time each year. Health effects are unknown for these low
levels of pesticide consumption, as are the effects of the interaction of different pesticides
found together in water.
Care and timing in applying pesticides by land managers can greatly
reduce their effects on wildlife and water quality. When using pesticides,
land managers should avoid any water areas; use unsprayed
buffer areas to protect wetlands; avoid applying when wind
speeds are greater than 5 miles per hour; and use integrated
pest management systems to apply pesticides only where and
when they are needed. In addition, land managers should use
the least toxic type of pesticide available for the necessary
application. There also are alternatives to pesticides.
Mechanical and biological control for pests can work just
as well as chemicals in certain circumstances.
I rest my case that the use of pesticides in an aquatic or land area will kill insects such as mosquitoes which are obviously food for our native birds and migratory birds and will contribute to a decline in native species which has much scientific evidence, so this scientific data does exist in many studies, Ron.

Ron said...

Mike,

Do you drive a car? Do you realize the carbon monoxide gas that the automobile produces is highly toxic to humans and animals? Have you ever killed an insect on your automobile windshield while driving down the road?

Using your logic Ecology should also ban people from driving cars because they are killing the food that birds depend on to survive.

The risks that mosquito control applications pose to the environment are well documented. Take the time to do a little research.

Mike, without effective mosquito control Eastern Washington will become uninhabitable.

bobby said...

Susewind notes that current mosquito application regulations are more restrictive than the proposed new permit.

“Until the state can issue a new permit that addresses the use of insecticides to control adult mosquitoes, it's illegal to spray for adult mosquitoes if the spray will get into water,” he said. “Given the risk of West Nile Virus and other mosquito borne diseases, it is important that we issue the new permit as quickly as possible in order to assure mosquito control districts and others a legal way to effectively control adult mosquitoes.”

Why does this continue to be said?!? Isn't it clear from the 6th circuit that applications made in conformance with the label do not require an NPDES permit until April of 2011?

Sandy Howard said...

We reiterate -- the 6th circuit court of appeals heard cases consolidated from many circuit courts across the country (including the ninth circuit court of appeals). The sixth circuit court struck down EPA’s rule which means that the discharge of pesticides and pesticide residues into surface waters requires a Clean Water Act Permit. The EPA requested the sixth circuit court stay their ruling to provide EPA and the states time to develop pesticide permits. The court did agree to a two year stay to allow EPA and states time to develop permits.

There are two issues with the sixth circuit courts 2 year stay: first, the ninth circuit court’s decision in Headwaters Inc. v. Talent Irrigation District still stands – the discharge of pesticides or pesticide residues to surface waters requires a Clean Water Act Permit. The second issue is the 6th circuit court issued the stay to provide EPA and States time to write pesticide discharge permits. Washington already has a permit for pesticide discharges associated with mosquito control. This permit authorizes the discharge of larvicides only. When the permit was first developed in 2002 and again when it was renewed in 2007 the inclusion of insecticides to kill adult mosquitoes was considered but not included.