BY SYDNEY ROSS SINGER – Tuesday, March 29, 2011 may be a day to go down in infamy as the sellout of our nation’s clean water.

House Bill HR 872, also called the “Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act” proposes to exempt all pesticide and herbicide use in and near waterways from requiring a permit under the Clean Water Act, (NPDES or National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit).

The proposed bill is meant to reverse the 2009 legal decision (National Cotton Council et al v EPA) that recognizes the use of some pesticides and herbicides in and near waterways and the shoreline as a form of water pollution requiring an NPDES permit. The Hawaii Department of Health is currently preparing rules to administer these permits for the EPA, which was going to start this year. If HR 872 passes, there will be no permit required for polluting waters with herbicides and pesticides.

More than 1,000 waterways in the United States are known to be impaired because of pesticide pollution—and many more may be polluted but are not sampled. In a nationwide survey, the U.S. Geological Survey found pesticides (or their byproducts) in every stream they sampled. In California, pesticide pollution is responsible for 27 percent of the state’s waters being designated as unfit for drinking, swimming, and fishing under the Clean Water Act.

Pesticides discharged into our waterways can kill or cause severe reproductive and developmental harm and cancer in fish and amphibians. The toxins can also move up the food chain, potentially accumulating in people who eat fish, and can contaminate our drinking water supplies. Since the 1960s, the spraying of the pesticide carbaryl to control populations of burrowing shrimp in Washington’s Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor has killed millions of
fish and crab, including endangered Chinook salmon. In 1996, the Talent Irrigation District, which discharged an herbicide into irrigation canals to kill aquatic weeds, ended up killing 92,000 juvenile steelhead salmon when the pesticide flowed from the canals into an adjacent, pristine creek.

Here in Hawaii, mangroves have been poisoned and left to rot in place on the Big Island, leaving 35 acres of shoreline blighted and polluted by these dead trees decaying in the water and becoming storm wrack threatening surfers, swimmers, and coral reefs. Fish counts plummeted and algea bloom covered the bottom of reefs at Wai Opae Marine Life Conservation District as a result of the mangrove poisoning.

Imagine all the mangroves on Oahu and Molokai poisoned and dead along the shoreline. This would be automatically permissible under the proposed HR 872. And this would apply to poisoning the waters to kill fish and aquatic plants considered “invasive”.

Also, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources is proposing administrative rule changes that would allow all invasive species control on waterways and the shoreline to be done with poisons on any number of acres with no permit. They also want all invasive species control by any method on any number of acres to be allowed with no EA, as a categorical exemption.

So without the EPA permit to regulate this use of poisons, our state govt will allow shoreline and waterway poisoning so long as the target is considered “invasive” by someone. We clearly need the EPA permit requirement to put some controls on this.

Indeed, this is all really about using poisons to control invasive species. Ranching and farming are already exempt from the need for EPA permits for chemical use. The major use of poisons apart from farming and ranching is invasive species control. And the chemical companies, which promote and profit from the war on invasives using chemicals, are ardent supporters of invasive species control. In fact, it is the chemical industry that is promoting this bill.

The environment needs to be protected from noxious weeds and pests. But the environment also needs to be protected from poisons.

Again, the vote in the House is coming up on Tuesday, March 29, so call your US Representative today:

Mazie Hirono
1410 Longworth HOB
Washington DC 20515-1102
Phone: (202) 225-4906

Colleen Hanabusa
238 Cannon HOB
Washington DC 20515-1101
Phone: (202) 225-2726

Tell them to vote NO on HR 872. Poisoning our waterways and oceans cannot be allowed without an EPA (NPDES) permit, if it is allowed at all. Help stop Monsanto, BASF, and other chemical giants from pushing their poisons on the public.