West's Waterways Still Soaked in Pesticides

As EPA drags heels, Earthjustice heads to court

This page was published 13 years ago. Find the latest on Earthjustice’s work.

Let’s face it, the U.S. is awash in pesticides and some are quite deadly to America’s wildlife.

The Environmental Protection Agency is the government group responsible for signing off on pesticides before they are allowed for use and is supposed to stop the really bad ones. In going about this task, the EPA historically only looked at the pesticide’s effects on people and have done a poor job.

They’ve also ignored each pesticide’s effects on wildlife.

Eight years ago, Earthjustice won a lawsuit forcing EPA to also consider the effects of pesticides on federally protected endangered species, including salmon. Throughout the Pacific states where salmon reproduce, dozens of different pesticides routinely wash off fields into salmon streams. The EPA is consulting with their federal counterparts at the National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS, to understand how, where and what times of year each of these pesticides are harming salmon.

Two years ago, NMFS finished consultations on the first several of these pesticides, and issued biological opinions requiring EPA to implement no-spray buffer zones and other pesticide restrictions to keep these deadly chemicals from driving endangered salmon to extinction. The EPA has failed to put any of these restrictions in place and is allowing toxic pesticides to continue to contaminate the waters of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California.

So, conservation and fishing groups have gone back to the court for the fourth time to force the EPA to take the next steps to restrict the uses of these pesticides in ways that will protect West Coast salmon and steelhead.

Pesticides can harm salmon in a number of ways, including killing them directly, affecting their food supply and habitat, impairing their ability to swim, and interfering with their ability to navigate back to their home streams to spawn.

Earthjustice is representing the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Institute for Fisheries Resources, and Defenders of Wildlife.

John was Earthjustice’s Media Director and chief press wrangler from 2001 until 2013. He came to Earthjustice in 2001 to defend freshwaters and public land—and salmon.