Update: Illinois Pesticide Application Permit

By April 9, 2011 anyone who applies a pesticide to water or has a license to treat for mosquitoes must get a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit from Illinois EPA. This is a new federal law that came about as a result of a lawsuit filed by environmentalists a few years ago.

In December, Illinois EPA informed the Illinois ag industry that their interpretation of the law was that anyone who applied any pesticide “on or near water or any water conveyance” would need to get a permit from IEPA. They described a scenario in which applying pesticides in a field or pasture would need a permit if that field had a waterway or ditch in it, even if the waterway or ditch did not have water in it at the time of the application. The resulting paperwork that accompanies such a permit would be incredibly burdensome. If we could not change IEPA’s stance, nearly every agricultural pesticide applicator would need a permit from IEPA come April 9, 2011.

Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association (IFCA) and the other Illinois ag organizations disagreed strongly with IEPA on their interpretation and went to work immediately to change the direction of the IEPA permit. After submitting extensive written comments and working with the management and staff at IEPA, we are very happy to report that IEPA accepted our suggestions and has revised the permit to remove terrestrial agricultural applications from needing a NPDES permit. Now, if a pesticide label does not have an aquatic use on the label, you will not need a permit from IEPA to apply that pesticide. IFCA is very pleased that our involvement in this issue provided an acceptable outcome for our members given the dramatic impact that would have on our industry.

Applicators who apply pesticides that are labeled for aquatic uses will need a NPDES permit to apply those pesticides to water. This would include any applications made to ponds that have an overflow, or to drainage ditches, or for mosquito treatment or spraying over forest canopies. If you have an aquatic category on your pesticide license or you treat for mosquitos, please contact IFCA so that we can work with you to assist you with the permit process. If you qualify as a small business the paperwork requirements will be minimal, and if do not exceed certain thresholds for the amount of treatment you conduct, the permit requirements are manageable. Still, it will be yet another regulatory burden to bear.

If you sell aquatic pesticides, you are NOT obligated to inform the purchaser of their requirement to get a NPDES permit. If someone buys an aquatic pesticide from you, and the pond he or she is treating has an overflow, to comply with the law they do need a NPDES permit. If you apply the aquatic pesticide for them, either you or the pond owner would need a NPDES permit. Failure to comply with this law is a violation of the Clean Water Act with penalties up to $37,000. We are not sure what kind of outreach will be done to inform people of this new regulation. People who own ponds and want them treated for weeds should ask their US Congressman and US Senator to support overturning the NPDES Permits for Pesticide Use.

Our national association Crop Life America is leading efforts in Congress to overturn this law and re-establish that FIFRA, not the Clean Water Act, is the over-riding regulation when it comes to all pesticide applications. We will keep you posted on this effort and will ask you to make calls to your legislators in Washington. Although the permit has limited impact on crop production, it’s a foot in the door for USEPA to further regulate pesticides. If you have questions please contact Jean Payne.

(Source: Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association)

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