Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Point Source and Non-point Source Pollution

You may think this is a strange title for today's blog but in reality it is something extremely important for beginning farmers to hear and to begin to contemplate.

Most of us are aware that there are two main categories of pollution. The first is "point source" pollution which is described as pollution where we know where it is coming from and we can see how it is distributed. Most examples given consider point source as that coming from the end of a pipe or other source that is easily identified. Most businesses and entities with point sources of pollution need a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES) permit.

The second type is "non-point source" pollution. This category is harder to determine who or where the actual single source of the pollutant is coming from .  Such examples include soil sediment in streams, nutrient runoff, pesticide runoff, and other pollutants where we cannot establish the exact source of the pollutant. In the case of pesticides, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) has always stated that the label is the law and with certain pesticides the only permit needed was a sprayer application permit.

However on January 7, 2009 the U.S. Circuit Court #6 made the decision that the Clean Water Act pesticide rule was not properly interpreting a part of the law concerning the spraying of pesticides. In the past where pesticide runoff has always been considered part of the nonpoint source pollution, the Clean Water Act is now being interpreted that in specific cases pesticides coming from any sprayer should be classified as point source. Circuit Court #6 sited the following from Section 502 of the Clean Water Act:

           "all biological pesticides are pollutants because they "undeniably alter the physical integrity of  the waters." And chemical pesticides are pollutants if they leave a residue or "waste".

Though not a final law, the ruling by Circuit Court #6 is open for public comment. The present ruling states that a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems permit will be required if you use a sprayer for:

1) mosquito or other flying insect control

2) aquatic weed and algae control

3) aquatic nuisance animal control

4) forest canopy pest control

EPA estimates the permit will apply to 35,000 pesticide applicators. EPA is taking public comments on the draft permit until July 19th, including whether it should cover additional pesticide uses. To view the docket and public comments click here.

The permit is scheduled to become effective on April 9, 2011.

To learn more about the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems Permit Program Basics check out their website.
(by Bob Broz, MU Extension Water Quality Specialist)

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