More is Not Better: Bad Pesticides Amendment to Gut the Clean Water Act

Lobsters are dying off in the Long Island Sound, as reported in today's local Connecticut news. The local lobster fishers attribute the late-season die-off to New York's use of a pesticide to kill mosquitos in their storm sewer catch basins. No thanks to Hurricane Irene, the pesticide washed into the Sound and is now killing off the lobsters. 

At the exact same time, 250 miles south in Washington, D.C., some Senators are working to ensure that this problem gets worse.

These Senators are taking advantage of a broadly supported bill to get their dirty, anti-public health amendments to the floor. Just today, Senator Roberts offered an amendment to Senator Reid’s popular China currency bill. Roberts’ amendment seeks to eliminate all Clean Water Act protections of our rivers, lakes, and streams against pesticide pollution.

Sound familiar? It should. This amendment is a copy of the bill that the Senate Agriculture committee quietly voted on a few months ago (S. 718).

And just like the bill, this amendment is a bad idea. It’s bad for public health, it’s bad for our water, it’s bad for the environment.

The Clean Water Act requires entities that are polluting our waters to obtain permits (either from EPA or from their state government). But Roberts’ amendment would eliminate that requirement for any pesticides that are discharged directly into or near waters. The premise of this amendment is that the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) is already protecting us from dangerous pesticides. This premise could not be more wrong.

Even the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) identified serious flaws in how pesticides are registered under FIFRA. Relying solely on the FIFRA registration process to protect our environment from pesticides discharged into waters not only jeopardizes our water bodies and public health, it also jeopardizes threatened and endangered species. FIFRA was not designed to specifically protect our waterbodies from all the pesticides that we’re spraying into them. That’s what the Clean Water Act was designed to do: protect our waterbodies from dangerous pollutants.

Don’t let a few disgruntled Senators gut these Clean Water Act protections. Our waterbodies are already contaminated enough with pesticides. Let’s start cleaning them up and keep them that way. Our senators must oppose Roberts’ amendment and any other version of the bills (H.R. 872 and S. 718).

Check out our factsheet here.

Read the whole NMFS biological opinion here.