Organophosphates Detected in Downeast Rivers
In a potentially significant development that received no press coverage, the Department of Agriculture released a report on November 15, 2000, that disclosed water monitoring results finding residues of the potent organophosphate insecticide Phosmet in two Downeast rivers, Narraguagus and Pleasant. This report, delivered to the Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) at its December 8 meeting, was released just two days after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service announced their final decision to list the Atlantic salmon as endangered in eight rivers and streams including the Narraguagus and Pleasant. The federal decision has been appealed in court by the State of Maine.
For three years, pursuant to Maine's voluntary Salmon Conservation Plan, BPC staffers have monitored surface water quality for pesticide residues in the Pleasant and Narraguagus rivers, both adjacent to extensive blueberry cultivation. Samples were tested for 11 pesticide active ingredients, but through 1999 the only significant detections were for the herbicide hexazinone, which was found in all but two of the samples, at very low concentrations, and one positive detection for terbacil. The highest concentration for hexazinone was 2.29 ppb in the Narraguagus River – a level that BPC toxicologist Lebelle Hicks called no cause for concern: "If you look at the data that we have and you ask me if hexazinone is affecting the salmon, I’d say no."
No discussion occurred at the BPC meeting or in the body of the November 15, 2000, report delivered to the Atlantic Salmon Commission of the potential environmental consequences of the new detection in 2000 testing of the organophosphate Phosmet. The report indicates that in 2000 sampling, "to overcome problems with the 1999 study design," BPC staff "worked closely with pesticide spray supervisors at Cherryfield Foods, Inc. and Jasper Wyman and Sons, Inc. to determine exactly when and where aerial application of the insecticide Imidan [with the active ingredient phosmet] was to occur."
Several hours prior to aerial application of the Imidan, filter papers to detect aerial drift were placed as closely as feasible to the rivers. The papers were collected and water samples taken several hours after the aerial spraying.
Phosmet was detected in both the filters and the water samples taken, with the highest concentration at 0.52 ppb in the Narraguagus water sample, and 21,978 nanograms in the Narraguagus filter, which represents, according to staff analyst Julie Chizmas, about 1/100 of the label application rate. At the point of sampling, the Narraguagus river runs about 300 feet from the fields that were sprayed with Imidan.
Neither BPC regulations nor the Imidan label instructions require a buffer zone for spraying near rivers or lakes. The Imidan 2.5-EC label simply provides, "This pesticide is extremely toxic to fish. Do not apply directly to water, to areas where surface water is present or to intertidal areas below the mean high water mark."
The LC-50 (dose at which 50% of fish exposed will die) for a 97.0% solution of phosmet for rainbow trout is 230 ppb – hundreds of times higher than the concentration detected in the Narraguagus rivers. However, pesticides can have toxic effects on animal life at levels well below the LC-50 levels. A Cornell University EXTOXNET fact sheet on phosmet reports that its "toxicity to aquatic organisms is species-specific, varying from highly to very highly toxic." While no data are given for Atlantic salmon, the report indicates that phosmet "has very little potential for accumulation in aquatic organisms," and "is rapidly broken down by the chemical action of water (hydrolysis) and by sunlight (photolysis)," with a half life between 16 hours and 9 days. The sheet also reports that the primary target organ for phosmet is the nervous system, with research data on rats suggesting "that phosmet does not cause reproductive toxicity," but with respect to mutagenic effects, "a definite conclusion cannot be drawn from current evidence." [http://ace.orst.edu/info/extoxnet/pips/phosmet.htm].
The BPC staff did not appear to be urging environmental assessment of the new organosphosphate detections, or to be courting press coverage of the issue. Bob Batteese's November 30, 2000, memo to Board members enclosing the Department's report observes, "We did not make this subject a formal agenda item because we are not aware of any need for you to take action at this time. However, we wanted to keep you informed of our activities in case the situation changes. So far, we feel fortunate
that most of the press coverage has revolved around the aquaculture and irrigation issues." In response to MOFGA's inquiries, Chizmas indicated that the BPC’s Environmental Risk Advisory Committee (ERAC) might take a further look, pursuant to the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Plan, at the potential environmental implications of the phosmet detections. Presently, however, the ERAC is fully engaged in examining potential strategies for responding to the West Nile Virus. At the BPC’s December 8 meeting, Farm Bureau Executive Director Jon Olson expressed grave concern over the potential legal and practical consequences of the federal listing of Wild Atlantic Salmon as an endangered species. Olson was concerned that "even if you use a pesticide in accordance with the label, if the pesticide gets in the river that would be grounds for a violation [of the Endangered Species Act]."
Paul Gregory Receives Friend of Casco Bay Award
Paul Gregory, Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) staff member and editor of the BPC’s quarterly publication the ***Communicator,*** was presented the annual Friend of Casco Bay award at the BPC’s December 8 meeting in Augusta. The award recognized the work that Gregory and the Board had done "in campaigning to reduce pesticide and fertilizer use in the Casco Bay watershed." At its September 29 meeting, the BPC had authorized a grant of $24,000 to fund Friends of Casco Bay’s water quality monitoring and homeowner outreach program focused on lawn care in the Casco Bay region. In presenting the award to Gregory, FOCB Executive Director Joseph Payne acknowledged Gregory’s help over the years in attending meetings and providing public service ads discouraging pesticide use, especially the very effective "Weed & Feed isn’t Fish Food" campaign. Payne called the BPC "the most proactive agency we have seen in getting information out to the public."
Gregory has developed an impressive series of public service advertisements that effectively get the message across that pesticides, even when "used as directed," are not "safe." Those living in the northern two-thirds of the state probably haven’t seen them, because Gregory focuses his limited PR budget on Southern Maine, "where most of the people are," and where high chemical input yard care is fast transforming residential landscapes. These ads are available free, in hard copy or electronically, to citizens' groups and environmental organizations for publication in local newspapers or newsletters, or for posting in community gathering places. Interested people should call Gregory at 287-2731.
************Tim: Sharon would like Paul's dandelion ad inserted here. I'll ask him to send us a copy. Sharon would like the cutline to read: "One of the many public service advertisements available from the Board of Pesticides Control." Jean**************************
Brown Critical Pesticide Control Area Rule Repealed
Not surprisingly, at its December 8, 2000, meeting, the BPC repealed the Critical Pesticide Control Area regulation adopted to protect the Brown family in Hope from exposure to pesticide drift from neighboring blueberry growers. When the Browns submitted their petition in the spring of 1999 for the special regulatory designation, they advised the BPC that they were, alternatively, putting their house on the market in order to seek a safer place to live. No serious interest in purchasing the house arose, however, until after the rule was adopted, which provided that the rule would remain in effect only as long as the Browns continued to live in their Hope residence. The Browns now reside in Jefferson.
West Nile Update
The BPC ERAC continues to work on its report to the Bureau of Health on the potential arsenal of responses to a West Nile Virus outbreak in Maine – and their environmental consequences. Committee Chair Lee Humphreys reported to the BPC on December 8 that the forums for environmental groups and the public to voice their concerns were not yet scheduled, and probably would take place in late January or February. The ERAC is attempting to get more information on the efficacy of potential adulticides, as well as information on drift and runoff. One Committee member, Dick Bradbury, has questioned whether any adulticide that kills less than 98% of mosquitoes is effective at all in addressing the West Nile Virus. The latest pesticides of choice in New York and Connecticut have been pyrethroids, which kill only about 50% of the mosquitoes, and, in Humphreys’ words, "get the rest angry." Bradbury suggested that it would be "better not to spray at all."
$1,500 Fine for Pesticide Spraying in Potato Storage
Northern Refrigeration, Inc., entered into a consent decree imposing a $1500 fine for the spraying incident in a potato storage area on December 15, 1998, that sent an employee in an adjacent office to the hospital, resulting in an allegedly chronic asthmatic condition, and in a civil lawsuit by the employee. Northern Refrigeration employee Blaine Lincoln was found to have applied Pin Nip 98% Chlorpropham potato sprout inhibitor as a thermal fog to a potato storage building in Monticello. An employee of the facility allegedly informed employees in an adjacent office that spraying would take place, and that they should "not be alarmed if they saw smoke emanating" from the storage area. Neither the employee of the facility nor the applicator took steps necessary to evacuate the office area prior to application. When the fumes penetrated the office, one of the two employees, Barbara McGuire, suffered a significant reaction that resulted in chronic health problems [see The MOF&G, Sept.-Nov, 2000]. Although the applicator claimed it was entitled to rely on the facility employee’s effort to advise employees of the spraying, the BPC concluded that the applicator’s failure to warn and evacuate the employees constituted "the use of pesticides applied in a careless, negligent or faulty manner or in a manner which is potentially harmful to the public health, safety or welfare…."