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EPA Settles Lawsuit Over Pesticides

Wildlife: For the first time in a decade, agency will study effects of 18 substances on imperiled salmon and forest plants.

April 19, 2002|From Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to consider for the first time in a decade how 18 commonly used pesticides may affect endangered salmon and woodland plants.

Agency officials said they will conduct the review under a lawsuit settlement being signed today with three California environmental groups that sued over the EPA's approval of the pesticides, which are used in fields, forests, orchards and to control weeds along highways and irrigation canals.

Several million pounds of pesticides are used each year on California almonds, apples, broccoli, grapes, lemons, plums, rice, strawberries, tomatoes and walnuts, the environmental groups said, citing California Department of Pesticide Regulation statistics.

The use is concentrated in the Central Valley and along much of the coast.

The EPA agreed to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, and to analyze the pesticides' effect on seven salmon species and 33 endangered forest plants.

The agency also agreed to find ways to minimize the pesticides' effects on endangered species.

"These species are close to extinction, and pesticides continue to pollute their habitat, but the EPA hasn't even begun to take action," said Patty Clary of Californians for Alternatives to Toxics. The group joined the Environmental Protection Information Center and Humboldt Watershed Council in the lawsuit.

Three of the pesticides have been detected in waterways at levels that may be toxic to fish, the suit contends. They are carbaryl, used on apples, strawberries, tomatoes and lawns; chlorpyrifos, used on almonds, apples, broccoli, walnuts and lawns; and diazinon, used on almonds, lettuce, plums and lawns.

The environmental groups argued that the EPA's failure to consult with other federal agencies on the pesticides' effects violated the federal Endangered Species Act.

The settlement being signed today won't be final until after a public comment period. The suit was filed in August 2000 in federal court in Oakland.

The California Farm Bureau, Alliance for Food and Farming and California Plant Health Assn. were unfamiliar with the suit and had no immediate comment.

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