CEQ Has Released Its 2016 Report on the Status of Connecticut’s Environment
CEQ Publishes Pesticide Report
Among Finds: Pesticide Enforcement Was Down
The Connecticut Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has released a report on compliance problems in the regulation of pesticide use. Connecticut has many protective environmental rules and standards that are undermined by poor compliance. In considering compliance generally, CEQ decided to focus, as an example, on one area of concern: pesticides. The title suggests other reports will follow — Environmental Enforcement in Connecticut, Part 1: Pesticides.
Concern about excessive use of these toxic products is widespread in the state. Science and the available data indicate that such concern warranted, both with respect to wildlife and human health.
The CEQ study explains the pesticide regulatory program, the difficulties it faces, the intensifying problem of non-compliance, and also recommended actions to improve enforcement and health protections.
Rivers Alliance thanks CEQ for focusing on this extremely serious and complex problem. We look forward to working with them toward changes and improvements. Please do read the report. Below are the titles of the main sections that indicate how thorough this report is.
Aquatic Pesticides: Who’s in Charge?
Every few years, problems or at least questions arise about the state’s permitting program for aquatic pesticides. When a person, or association, or town applies to the state for a permit to put pesticides into water, what rights, if any, do towns have to oppose, or alter, or oversee, or enforce permits?
Typically, an applicant wishes to eliminate troublesome plants or sometimes animals in a pond or lake. (Note that the term pesticide includes herbicides.) CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has primary authority, but towns must be notified. Some towns believe they have broad authority through their Inland-Wetlands and Water Courses commissions to put conditions on permits for aquatic pesticide use and to oversee the implementation. Other towns feel that if an applicant has a DEEP permit, there is nothing significant they can do. Meanwhile, due to staff cuts, DEEP is rarely able to check the accuracy of applications (for example, whether or not there is a downstream outlet from the water body to be treated), or to verify that conditions in the permit are being met.
The issue of noncompliance with environmental permits extends well beyond the aquatic pesticides the program, and, in 2017, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has been doing research into the problem, preparatory to issuing a report. Permits for aquatic pesticides stand out as particularly troubling. This is a matter of considerable public concern because of the growing evidence that pesticides in general are more harmful than advertised.
Attorney Janet Brooks, a member of CEQ and former, longtime member of the Attorney General’s staff, addressed the issue of authorities in a column in Habitat in the summer of 2017 (Habitat is the newsletter of the Connecticut Association of Conservation and Inland Wetlands Commissions). In “Pesticides and the Wetlands Act” she emphasized the broad authorities of municipalities. A brief discussion among experts at the Rivers Alliance October network conference, clarified that the state and municipalities have “concurrent” or “parallel” authority over applications of aquatic pesticides. This isn’t much help to town officials who aren’t sure exactly what they can or cannot do.
Eventually, the issue may end up in the Attorney General’s office. Meanwhile, we’ll do our best to keep you posted.
Roundup kills weeds, and what else?
California has formally listed glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, Rodeo and related herbicides, as a carcinogen (June 2017). California’s Proposition 65 requires the state to maintain a list of chemicals hazardous to health. Adding glyphosate to this list follows up on the finding of the World Health Organization’s International Agency (IARC) for Research on Cancer that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen (2015).
Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup, has threatened to sue California over this issue. The finding of the (IARC) has been challenged as not scientifically defensible. Nevertheless, science studies show that glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the world, is in our air, water, soil, and bodies. It is being studied in connection with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, shorter pregnancies with smaller infants, gluten sensitivity, and other health problems.
The primary use of glyphosate has been to enable the development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs include crops that are immune to the effects of glyphosate. Monsanto sells Roundup-ready seeds for these GMO crops to farmers. If the farmer then treats his or her agricultural fields with glyphosate, all weeds perish and only the crop grows. Thus, no weeding is needed.
Of course, nature will strive to develop its own immunity to toxic chemicals in its environment, and glyphosate-resistant weeds are showing up. Monsanto has been marketing other GMO seeds resistant to other herbicidal products, such as dicamba. But this herbicide, too, has been linked to health risks, including the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
At the very least, routine use of these products in gardening, landscaping, and farming should be eliminated or regulated to reduce health risks.
Rotenone Pesticide and Parkinson’s Disease
Read this article on diagnoses of Parkinson’s apparently linked to exposure to the toxin rotenone. Two U.S. Geological Survey hydrologists were heavily exposed to the toxin in 2009 while using it to treat the waters of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. Within hours tens of thousands of fish had died. Subsequently, both men developed Parkinson’s at a young age. Rotenone, which is a root-based toxin, has been a suspect in Parkinson’s for many years. Nevertheless it is still used in (our least favorite form of) fish management. Presently, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has proposed to use rotenone to kill rainbow and brown trout in the waters of the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico in order to introduce native Gila trout.