Ten years ago, San Francisco Baykeeper won a major victory for protecting California waterways from pesticides, when we secured the first regulations on agricultural pesticides in the nation. This year Baykeeper is celebrating 25 years of work to defend the Bay from pollution, and looking back at major victories from our history.
For more than 20 years, pesticide-laden runoff from irrigated cropland was one of the largest sources of California water pollution. Pesticide pollution threatens drinking water, aquatic habitat, and endangered species that include the Delta smelt. But because of the industry’s political and economic influence, agricultural pesticides were exempt from all regulations, including the federal Clean Water Act.
Baykeeper fought for years for regulatory controls on pesticides in California. We built a statewide coalition of 220 groups, including community organizations, farmworker rights groups and unions, Latino groups, physicians, and environmental justice groups. The coalition’s advocacy efforts included a large demonstration at the State Water Board in Sacramento.
In 2004, Baykeeper won a groundbreaking set of pollution controls on agriculture in the Central Valley, the first regulations on agricultural pesticides in the nation. Growers were required to monitor and report pesticide pollution in water that ran off their land, as well as prepare pollution plans and follow best practices for improving water quality.
However, at first growers largely ignored the new regulations. In 2006, Baykeeper secured augmented regulations with tighter requirements to reduce pesticide pollution.
In 2009, Baykeeper and a coalition of environmental groups went on to win 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 when applied on or near our nation's bays, lakes, rivers, and streams.
Today, Baykeeper continues to work to reduce pesticide pollution in San Francisco Bay.
Photo by Dimilin (Flickr/CC)