PUTTING PRESSURE ON EPA
In the wake of the Chittenden County disaster and revelations, the USCC organized a Persistent Herbicide Task Force, now chaired by Paul Sellew. The Task Force developed the Position Statement, a work plan, and now is ramping up efforts to impact the herbicide re-registration process that the 3 most common persistent herbicides, Clopyralid, Picloram and Aminopyralid, will be undergoing starting this year. The key elements of the workplan are:
- Develop confidential reporting and tracking system so that the USCC can keep up with the scope and magnitude of the issue
- Engage directly with EPA Pesticide Registration process on existing PH products.
- Engage a lobbying firm with experience influencing EPA registration process
- Develop diagnostic and communication tools for members to use around this issue
Examples of the impact of our work on Capitol Hill:
- Direct question to EPA Administrator McCarthy by US Representative Serrano (D-NY) at the House Budget Hearing
(Questions to Ms. McCarthy appear at approximately 1:45)
- Letter to McCarthy from Representative Nolan (D-MN)
- Response to Rep. Moran (D-VA)
Report on Meeting with EPA
Thanks to the pressure of USCC members and allies, USCC President Frank Franciosi and Executive Director Michael Virga, along with Brenda Platt, Chair, USCC Legislative & Environmental Affairs Committee and Dr. Fred Michel, Ohio State University, met with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on August 16th at EPA headquarters in DC. Representatives from EPA included Dan Kenny, Branch Chief, Herbicides Branch and Lois Rossi, Director, Registration Division, and representatives from the Pesticide Re-Evaluation Division, the Environmental Fate & Effects Division and the Biopesticides & Pollution Prevention Division.
Concerned stakeholders from Vermont, Pat O’Neill, Director, Composting Association of VT, Tom Moreau, General Manager, Chittenden Solid Waste District and Cary Giguere, Pesticide Program Section Chief, Agrichemical Management Section, Vermont Agency of Agriculture participated in the meeting via telephone to offer their thoughts and experiences.
Some of the outcomes from the meeting include:
- EPA confirmed their continued support for composting and the composting industry and has put a priority on investigating the Vermont incident. They are currently on the ground and working with Dow, Dupont and the Chittenden Solid Waste District. Dow and Dupont are involved in a review of methods to analyze contamination. EPA will decide on the appropriate action, pending the outcome of its investigation.
- EPA and USCC agreed to form a task force to develop a test method to prescreen herbicides for fate-in-compost that will involve experts from both organizations. Will Brinton (Wood End Lab), Assaf Sadeh (Soil Control Lab), Fred Michel (OSU), and Al Rattie (USSC Director of Market Development & STA) were designated to work with EPA on developing the fate-in-compost testing protocol. These chemicals are up for re-registration in 2014.
- EPA said they needed to know if the Vermont incident was a stewardship issue, a labeling issue, or a misuse issue. Dan Kenny stated that EPA needed to have a very clear understanding of the source of the compounds that are proving problematic in Vermont before they take any actions on labeling requirements.
- Mike Virga and Dan Kenny have an open line of communication that will continue until this issue is resolved to the satisfaction of the USCC. Two things under discussion currently include setting up a confidential complaint hotline to report incidents regarding herbicide-contaminated compost and a funding source for composters to defray the cost of remediation for the damage done by these compounds. Funding for both of these items will likely be the responsibility of Dow and Dupont.
This remains a critical issue for the USCC. We will continue to keep our members informed of recent events and progress on action items.
Message to EPA: Time to Stop Persistent Herbicides!
Recently Green Mountain Compost, owned and operated by Chittenden County Solid Waste District, Williston, Vermont, suffered a devastating discovery—something in their compost was causing garden plants to distort and wither! The culprit? A couple of pernicious, persistent herbicides called clopyralid and picloram. This after investing $2.3 million in a state-of-the-art facility designed to recover food waste, yard debris and agricultural wastes from Burlington and the surrounding area. How did these herbicides, which have negligible recorded licensed use in Vermont, get there? They were probably used on a hay field somewhere to control weeds, the hay was fed to horses, the horses’ manure was sent for composting along with other materials, and the finished compost had traces of the herbicides in sufficient strength and amount to cause damage. It takes VERY little to kill many garden plants, as little as 10 parts per billion. That is like 1 drop diluted in an Olympic sized swimming pool.
Clopyralid and picloram are examples of a relatively new class of herbicides called pyridine-carboxylic acids. Others include aminopyralid and triclopyr. It is clear that regardless of what Dow, DuPont or others put on their labels or try to control their use, they can eventually end up in compost and then in plants that can and will be harmed. All pesticides have to pass a variety of tests before the EPA will register them for use. Tests include toxicity (such as to humans and fish), carcinogenicity, and other potential health and safety issues. They DO NOT include a compostability test. But with the continuing growth of the composting industry, more and more potentially tainted materials will end up in compost, leading to the type of results Chittenden County is experiencing.
Unfortunately problems with persistent-herbicide-contaminated compost are not new or unique to Vermont. Ten years ago clopyralid contamination shut down the compost facility in Spokane, WA. Compost contamination problems have been documented since then in California, Idaho, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington. It’s time for federal action.
We are calling on the EPA to add a “compostability test” to its registration requirements, and set a compostability standard for all chemicals that could potentially end up in a composting facility. We are confident that if the companies had to meet such a standard, they could and would. But if it is not a requirement, nothing else will compel such a change.
We are further urging EPA to (1) immediately initiate a Special Review Process for all herbicides that are pyridine-based compounds and act by mimicking plant growth hormones (auxins), and (2) impose a moratorium on the use and sale of these herbicides pending the conclusion of the Special Review Process. EPA uses the Pesticide Special Review process when it has reason to believe that the use of a pesticide may result in unreasonable adverse effects on people or the environment. The Special Review process involves evaluating existing data, acquiring new information or studies, assessing the identified risk and determining appropriate risk reduction measures.