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EPA rule limits 3 pesticides near salmon waters

Federal biologists say the chemicals interfere with the fish's sense of smell.

September 12, 2009|Associated Press

SEATTLE — In an effort to protect endangered and threatened Pacific salmon, the Environmental Protection Agency announced new limits Friday on three pesticides that are commonly used on Western farms.

The restrictions apply to the use of chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion near salmon waters in Washington, California, Oregon and Idaho.

The chemicals have been found by the U.S. Geological Survey to interfere with salmon's sense of smell, making it harder for them to find food, avoid predators and return to native waters to spawn, according to federal biologists.

The new regulations come after anti-pesticide groups and salmon fishermen sued the federal government in 2001 for not considering the effect of pesticides on federally protected salmon and steelhead.

"These limitations . . . will protect Pacific salmon and steelhead while providing for appropriate pesticide use," said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances.

The new rules prohibit the use of these pesticides within 100 to 1,000 feet of salmon waters, depending on size of the river or stream, application rate and other criteria.

It's a major step, but "we're concerned that EPA's alternative won't be enough to keep these poisons out of salmon waters," said Joshua Osborne-Klein, an attorney for Earthjustice, the public interest law firm in Seattle that brought the case.

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