Baykeeper Update

Tightening Controls on Algae- and Weed-Killing Chemicals

Chemicals that kill algae and other water weeds shouldn’t be put into California waters unless there is a clear need, Baykeeper recently told regulators.

Baykeeper made our recommendation as part of the State Water Resources Control Board’s process for updating California regulations requiring controls on the use of algaecides and aquatic herbicides.

The regulations are being updated as a result of Baykeeper’s 2009 federal appeals court victory in a decade-long lawsuit. Our victory forced the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate the spraying of pesticides and herbicides into the nation’s waterways under the Clean Water Act. The State Water Board is revising California regulations to comply with the EPA’s new requirements.

Baykeeper urged the Water Board to strengthen the regulations by requiring that anyone applying algaecides or herbicides to waterways must identify and analyze the actual need for use of the chemicals. Comparable measures are required in regulations of other types of pesticides used in California waterways.

The regulations also need stronger guidelines for application plans, which are documentation of the proposed pesticide use that must be developed and submitted to the Water Board before spraying. Application plans need to be specific to the water body’s unique conditions. So far the application plans submitted to the Water Board under regulations of other pesticides used in waterways have been vague and generic, making them virtually useless.

Other needed improvements in the regulations include:

  • Placing tighter limits—consistent with EPA requirements—on the amount of algaecides and herbicides that can be put into water bodies;
  • Placing limits on certain chemicals that have been omitted from the regulations; and
  • Requiring anyone using algaecides and herbicides to test the water after the application to see if the chemicals have caused toxicity to aquatic life.

The State Water Board will consider adopting Baykeeper’s recommendations in November. Baykeeper will continue our ongoing work toward strong regulations and enforcement to reduce contamination of San Francisco Bay from pesticides and herbicides.