GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Monday it will impose restrictions on spraying three agricultural pesticides to keep them out of salmon streams after manufacturers refused to adopt the limits voluntarily.
EPA will develop new rules for applying the chemicals diazinon, malathion and chlorpyrifos that will include no-spray zones along streams and restrictions on spraying depending on weather conditions, EPA spokesman Dale Kemery said in an e-mail. There will also be requirements to report dead fish.
Even at very low levels, the chemicals have been found by federal biologists 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.
The EPA action stems from a lawsuit filed by anti-pesticide groups in 2001.
Manufacturers Dow AgroSciences, Makhteshim Agan of North America, Cheminova and Gharda Chemicals Ltd. notified EPA on Friday that they would not voluntarily adopt the restrictions, said Dow AgroSciences spokesman Garry Hamlin.
In a letter to the EPA, a lawyer for Dow AgroSciencies and Makhteshim Agan said the companies feel there is no scientific evidence the pesticides are killing, harming or jeopardizing the survival of salmon, or harming critical habitat, and that the NOAA Fisheries analysis was deficient.
They also objected to EPA's handling of the case.
The EPA decision comes a year and a half after NOAA Fisheries Service found the pesticides threaten the survival of 27 species of salmon and steelhead that are protected by the Endangered Species Act in the West.
"We are encouraged that they are finally getting serious about implementing these protections and hope that the agency takes the most immediate and aggressive action available to it to ensure that pesticides are removed from Northwest salmon waters," said Steve Machuda, an attorney for Earthjustice in Seattle, the public-interest law firm that represented the anti-pesticide groups.
Meanwhile, EPA notified NOAA Fisheries that it is going ahead with implementing restrictions on the next set of pesticides found to harm salmon: carbaryl, carbofuran and methomyl.