Court Declares Pesticides Sprayed in Waterways to Be Pollutants, Must Be Regulated Under the Clean Water Act
On January 7, 2009, Baykeeper won an important fight to protect creeks, rivers, fish and other wildlife from pesticide spraying in waterways. In a landmark decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that pesticides are pollutants harmful to the environment and human health and cannot be exempted from Clean Water Act protections and oversights when applied on or near our nation's bays, lakes, rivers and streams.
Update: On February 22, 2010, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of this ruling. Read The New York Times article here.
Across the country, agencies and water districts routinely apply pesticides directly to or near thousands of miles of waterways to control pests and aquatic vegetation. These pesticides are, by their very nature, toxic to aquatic life and often persist in the environment even when applied correctly. Until recently, spraying of these pesticides near and into water was largely unregulated. Only after years of pressure from Baykeeper did California become one of the first states to ensure that this spraying did not compromise water quality.
In 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted a rule that undermined the protections put in place by Baykeeper, the State of California, and many other western states. Baykeeper and environmental and health groups across the country fought the rule, arguing that EPA should work to protect the environment rather than pesticide companies.
On January 7, the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of environmental groups, holding that pesticides are pollutants under federal law and must be regulated under the Clean Water Act. The Court's ruling sent a strong message to both EPA and pesticide manufacturers that pesticides are harmful to human health and the environment and must be appropriately regulated as such.
The organizations bringing the case include San Francisco Baykeeper, National Center for Conservation Science and Policy, Oregon Wild, Saint John’s Organic Farm, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Waterkeeper Alliance, Environment Maine, Toxics Action Center and Peconic Baykeeper and Soundkeeper.