EPA’s Pesticide General Permit

In October 2011, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Pesticide General Permit (PGP) for point source discharges from the application of pesticides to waters of the United States. The following text is posted on EPA’s website.

“This action was in response to a 2009 decision by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (National Cotton Council, et al. v. EPA) in which the court vacated EPA's 2006 Final Rule on Aquatic Pesticides and found that point source discharges of biological pesticides, and chemical pesticides that leave a residue, into waters of the U.S. were pollutants under the Clean Water Act (CWA). As a result of the court's decision, NPDES permits are generally required for these types of discharges as of October 31, 2011. While the permit requirements must be met as of October 31, Operators will be covered automatically under the PGP without submitting a Notice of Intent (NOI) for any discharges before January 12, 2012. To continue coverage after January 12, 2012, those Operators who are required to submit NOIs will need to do so at least 10 days (or 30 days for discharges to National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Listed Resources of Concern) prior to January 12. For the first 120 days that the permit is in effect, EPA will focus on providing compliance assistance and education of the permit requirements, rather than on enforcement actions.”

“The Agency’s final PGP covers Operators that apply pesticides that result in discharges from the following use patterns: (1) mosquito and other flying insect pest control; (2) weed and algae control; (3) animal pest control; and (4) forest canopy pest control. The permit requires permittees to minimize pesticide discharges through the use of pest management measures and monitor for and report any adverse incidents. Some permittees are also required to submit NOIs prior to beginning to discharge and implement integrated pest
management (IPM)-like practices. Record-keeping and reporting requirements will provide valuable information to EPA and the public regarding where, when, and how much pesticides are being discharged to waters of the U.S. Pesticide application use patterns not covered by EPA’s Pesticide General Permit may need to obtain coverage under an individual permit or alternative general permit if they result in point source discharges to waters of the U.S.”

EPA developed the PGP to provide an option for some pesticide applicators/managers to comply with NPDES permit requirements without having to obtain coverage under individual permits, which generally take longer to obtain and are more burdensome than general permits. Additionally, EPA has indicated that operations conducted under the PGP, provided all permit requirements are met, will be shielded from liability from citizen lawsuits.

EPA’s PGP covers discharges only in areas where EPA is the NPDES permitting authority, which include six states (Alaska, Idaho, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Oklahoma), Washington, D.C., all U.S. territories except the Virgin Islands, most Indian Country lands, and federal facilities in four additional states (Colorado, Delaware, Vermont, and Washington).

The remaining 44 states and the Virgin Islands are authorized by EPA to develop and issue their own NPDES pesticide permits, which may be (and often are) different from the EPA PGP. For example, general permits in some states provide coverage for use patterns (e.g., Area-Wide Pest Control) that are not covered in EPA’s PGP.

Most forestry operations in the US occur in states where the NPDES program is administered by a state agency rather than by EPA. There are important differences among these states in NPDES permitting requirements for pesticides. For example, exemptions for silvicultural operations are part of NPDES pesticide permitting programs in some states but not in others.

EPA’s PGP and related information may be found online at http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/home.cfm?program_id=410.
An EPA webcast about the PGP is posted at http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/courseinfo.cfm?program_id=0&outreach_id=625&schedule_id=1157.

EPA is planning to conduct additional webcasts on some specific aspects of the PGP in coming months. Advance notice of these webcasts will be posted on EPA’s website at http://www.epa.gov/npdes/training.

Contact information