River Watch Header Image

Watching U.S. Waters—Permit Required for Aerial Spraying

Agencies participating in the current and anticipated aerial spraying of chemicals to get rid of the light brown apple moth over eleven California Counties were placed on Notice Monday that such activities will affect the nation’s waters thereby requiring oversight by regulatory agencies whose duty it is to protect the nation’s waters from pollution.

Bob Rawson, President of the Board of Directors of by Northern California River Watch (River Watch) a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the waters of the US in northern California, stated that, “the Notice letter simply states that, all laws pertaining to the use of pesticides which come into contact with water must be fully implemented in order to protect human health and the environment.” Rawson went on to say that amphibians are far more sensitive to chemical exposure than the rats and rabbits on which the chemical company conducted short term experiments, and other Lepidoptera like butter flies and other pollinators could be affected. “

The label instructions warn that the product is ‘[p]otentially harmful if swallowed, absorbed through skin, or inhaled. Causes moderate eye and skin irritation.“ Pesticides intended to kill or otherwise disrupt natural reproductive activities are defined as pollutants and when sprayed from airplanes hovering between 500 and 800 feet above the ground those pollutants admittedly come into contact with surface waters.

River Watch served a sixty day-Notice letter to the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the local Agricultural Commissioner among others stating that the discharge of a pollutant into navigable waters is prohibited unless a permit under the federal Clean Water Act is applied for and obtained. No such permit has been obtained by state and local agencies for the discharge of chemicals from the sky in Sonoma County.

“The concern is that the aerial spraying going on, and planned, will allow the synthetic pheromones to drift into surface waters which are wildlife habitat and sources of drinking water for people,” explained Larry Hanson River Watch member. “The Clean Water Act is intended to protect our water from just such pollution,” Hanson stated.

Some aerial spraying has already occurred in Santa Cruz where people reportedly felt ill affects from the synthetic pheromones.

A quick review of the Department of Agriculture’s website indicates that there are numerous so-called pests that the public are warned against. “ If chemical companies and public agencies are not required to obtain permits that will require monitoring and reporting, the amounts of chemicals to which surface waters are subjected and the affects of such spraying will be difficult if not impossible to understand,” explained Rawson.

Northern California River Watch’s Press Release