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Groups Uncover Government Documents Showing Pesticides Can Harm Salmon

Documents show the EPA has determined that pesticides harm fish but has failed to take required action.
May 7, 2001
Seattle, WA — 
Documents filed in Federal District Court show that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that pesticides harm fish but has failed to take required action. The documents were presented as part of a motion for summary judgment in an Endangered Species Act lawsuit seeking protections for salmon from pesticides.

Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund filed the court documents on behalf of the Washington Toxics Coalition, the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, and the Institute for Fisheries Resources. The groups unearthed volumes of government documents showing current uses of 48 pesticides are likely to harm salmon.

"EPA says in its own documents that dozens of pesticides used in the Northwest have high potential to harm salmon," said Erika Schreder, staff scientist with Washington Toxics Coalition.

The legal filings show that EPA has determined that current uses for 41 pesticides are likely to result in surface water contamination levels that threaten fish or their habitat. The groups also identified 13 pesticides that the US Geological Survey determined were present in watersheds used by salmon at concentrations at or above levels set to protect fish and other aquatic life. Because some pesticides are found on the lists of both agencies, a total of 48 pesticides have concerns that were identified by either EPA or USGS.

"In addition to EPA determining that these pesticides are a threat to fish or fish habitat, we know that they are commonly used in Pacific States and frequently detected in watersheds used by salmon," said Aimee Code, Right to Know Coordinator with the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides. "EPA's own analysis shows that pesticides not only hurt salmon directly but also threaten their food supply and other habitat needs," she added."

"People who depend on fishing for a living have a right to expect the federal government to act when they find threats to salmon," said Glen Spain with the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "It's obvious that EPA needs to do more to ensure salmon are protected from harmful pesticide exposures," he added. "Toxic chemicals in our rivers are a real problem for salmon as well as human health, and we remain hopeful that the new EPA Administrator will direct the agency to take corrective action."

"EPA and USGS have already made findings that these pesticides can harm salmon, yet EPA fails entirely to comply with its duty under the Endangered Species Act to protect threatened and endangered runs of salmon from these pesticides," said Patti Goldman of Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund.

The groups sued EPA on January 30, 2001 for failure to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service concerning adverse impacts on listed salmon of pesticides that are registered for use by EPA.

A background information sheet identifying the 48 pesticides and in what states they are commonly used or frequently detected is posted at http://www.pesticide.org/. The motion for summary judgment is also available at http://www.pesticide.org/.


Contact:
Erika Schreder (206) 632-1545 ext 19 – Washington Toxics Coalition
Aimee Code (541) 344-5044 ext 27 – Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides
Patti Goldman (206) 343-7340 ext 32 – Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, Seattle Office