North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan has sponsored an amendment to the Farm Bill to exempt pesticides that are directly applied to waterbodies from having to be permitted under the Clean Water Act. She claims that she is doing this to help farmers.
"I'm sponsoring this amendment to protect farmers from burdensome and unnecessary regulations that keep them from doing what they do best: farming," Hagan said in a statement.
But this is not actually doing anything to help farmers. The Clean Water Act already exempts agricultural irrigation return flows from the permitting process. This permit is not a problem for farmers.
The permits are required for activities like spraying for mosquito larva in a lake or invasive animal species that populate a stream or weeds clogging a utility right of way. Not farming.
The permit doesn’t ban the use of pesticides. It just requires that the pesticide application be done safely. And if a lake is already contaminated with a certain pesticide, you can’t put more of that pesticide directly into the lake.
The permit gives us notice. It lets a mom know that a swimming hole has been sprayed with a toxic chemical before her kids jump into it. It provides notice to a fisherman that the fish in the lake he likes to frequent have just been exposed to a pesticide before he takes it home and eats it. Why would they want to know this? Pesticides are poisons, designed to kill things. Exposure to them can cause many health problems in people and in wildlife.
But Sen. Hagan wants to eliminate these protections.
Hagan is not protecting farmers. Agricultural return flows are already exempted from the Clean Water Act.
Hagan is not protecting public health. Public health departments can spray for mosquitoes and other pests to protect public health from West Nile and other diseases.
Hagan is not protecting our pocketbooks. More pesticides in our source water mean drinking water utilities have to spend more money to remove these poisons from our tap water. That added cost has to be paid by taxpayers or by customers – that is, you and me.
More than 1000 waterways are currently impaired by pesticide contamination. Eliminating the Clean Water Act protections will mean many, many more waterways will join that group.
Yes, we can keep pests out of the lakes, rivers, and streams we swim and fish in, and yes it can be done safely. But Senator Hagan is trying to take the protections away. I was born and raised in North Carolina. It makes me sad that Senator Hagan prefers to spend her time in Congress pretending to help farmers, rather than actually protecting North Carolinians from pesticides.