Pesticides and Toxics Management
Disposing of Pesticides
Some tribal governments may engage in pesticide management, which includes applying, storing, and disposing of pesticides.
Because these activities could affect human health and the environment, they may be subject to federal environmental laws and regulations, as indicated in the following list:
- Application - FIFRA, CWA and ESA
- Storage - FIFRA, EPCRA, CERCLA, and CAA
- Disposal - FIFRA, CWA, and RCRA
- Spill/Release Response - EPCRA, CERCLA, AND CAA
Regardless of who is responsible for pesticide regulation, tribes should understand that misuse of a pesticide could cause damage to non-target species (i.e., humans, pets, or other animals and plants). Pesticide labels, which describe when and under what conditions pesticides can be applied, mixed, stored, loaded, or used, should be followed strictly to prevent indoor pollution and potential hazards to humans and animals. In addition, federal labeling requirements establish worker protection standards, which include information on restricted entry intervals after pesticide usage and personal protective equipment requirements.
Purchasing PesticidesPurchasing includes the acquisition of pesticides and the equipment used to mix, load, and apply pesticides. Although these purchases are generally not regulated directly by federal environmental laws, purchasing decisions can impact the environment. Restricted use pesticides, which may be highly toxic, must only be purchased and used by applicators certified as competent to handle such pesticides.
The purchase of pesticides sold in returnable containers will eliminate a tribe's need to dispose of the containers, which could be a regulated hazardous waste under RCRA; by returning the containers to the dealer, tribes also reduce their environmental footprint and risk. In addition, a tribe may elect to purchase certain types of equipment that apply pesticides more efficiently, thereby conserving resources, and reducing the environmental impacts of pesticide application. Tribes also need to keep abreast of timetables for pesticides being phased out under re-registration actions.
Applying PesticidesPesticide application methods and practices depend largely upon the nature of the application. Pesticides may be applied indoors (e.g., housing units, schools, other buildings) or outdoors (e.g., solid waste management units, parks, aquatic uses, wetlands, open range, roadsides, right of ways, agriculture enterprises, recreational areas, and other tribal lands). Additionally, a wide range of household products contain pesticides, such as cockroach sprays and insect repellents, which can be applied without training as long as the label requirements are followed. However, "restricted use" pesticides can only be applied by certified individuals.
The hundreds of application methods available can be categorized into three major types:
- Sub-surface application methods, including injecting the pesticide into the ground to control subterranean insects (i.e., termites, grubs, and nematodes) and other sub-surface methods, such as incorporating the pesticide into the soil
- Surface applications, which include applying pesticides, repellants, disinfectants, or mildewcides directly to surfaces (e.g., applications to floorboards, structures, animals or insects, crack/crevices)
- Aerial application, including application via aircraft, back packs, and spray booms to apply pesticides to trees, row crops, and open range, or fumigants to control mosquitoes and wood-boring insects, such as termites
Pesticides come in many forms, including gases, sprays, dusts, granulars, baits, and dips. Pesticide-related activities are primarily regulated under FIFRA, which requires that pesticide application occur in a manner consistent with product label instructions. All pesticide management operations must comply with federal pesticide use requirements unless EPA grants an emergency exemption from the requirements (40 CFR 166). The application of pesticides may also be regulated under the CWA if the tribal government develops BMPs that are included in its stormwater or wastewater discharge permit.
Applying Pesticides Indoors
Indoor pesticide application can occur in agricultural and non-agricultural areas and in any type of structural or industrial area requiring pest management, including grain silos. Applicators must follow label requirements for both general and restricted use pesticides. Applicators applying pesticides indoors must follow guidelines listed under 40 CFR 171, regulating the use of pesticides in, on, or around the following structures:
- Food-handling establishments
- Human dwellings
- Institutions (e.g., schools, hospitals, offices, warehouses, public buildings)
- Industrial establishments (e.g., warehouses and grain elevators, and any other structures and adjacent areas, public or private)
The potential environmental impacts from indoor pesticide application are air pollution and exposure of people, non-target animals, and plants.
Applying Pesticides Outdoors
Tribal governments may be responsible for supervising the use of restricted pesticides in the following areas or during the following activities:
- Forests, nurseries, and forest seed producing areas
- Commercial or private agriculture operations
- Ornamental trees, shrubs, flowers, and turf producing areas
- Livestock operations
- Maintenance of roads, electric power lines, pipelines, railway rights-of-way, or other similar areas
- Eradication of noxious weeds, mosquitos, other aquatic pests, and invasive species
- Maintenance of irrigation canals
- Recreation or other outdoor areas
Liquid spraying is one of the most common methods of applying pesticides to outdoor areas; it may be conducted by aerial spraying, tractor spraying, spray rigs, air blasters, hand spraying, or other liquid spray devices. The potential environmental impacts from outdoor pesticide application are human exposure and air, soil, and water contamination.
The application of certain pesticides may destroy or adversely affect endangered or threatened species of fish, wildlife, or plants, and their habitats. Tribal governments must comply with applicable requirements under the ESA. Tribal governments can work with EPA's Endangered Species Protection Program to learn more about the protection of endangered species from the use of pesticides.
Outdoor pesticide activities are regulated under the label requirements and application provisions of FIFRA. FIFRA also establishes worker protection standards designed to protect agricultural workers and pesticide handlers. These include posting warning signs in areas where pesticides have been applied, restricting entry intervals after pesticide usage, and requiring the use of personal protective equipment.
Cleaning Application Equipment
While there is no way to completely remove all traces of a pesticide from application equipment, at the end of each application, several steps can be followed to protect the pesticide applicator, the environment, and to ensure that the equipment is left as clean as possible. The steps are:
- Read and follow all label directions to determine whether personal protection equipment is required and to determine how best to clean application equipment and dispose of rinsate (the washwater that contains small amounts of pesticide residue) and
- Ensure proper disposal of the rinsate
Depending on the type of application equipment, the following steps should be considered and used:
- Rinse the inside and outside of the tank with clean water
- Put in a moderate amount of clean water and spray it out. A small amount of liquid detergent added to the water will help clean the inside of the sprayer system
- Clean the nozzles, nozzle screens, and suction screens with compressed air or a soft brush
- Closely monitor the activities of the pesticide applicator
Pesticide products are categorized as restricted, general use, or unclassified. A product is classified as a restricted use pesticide when the product meets certain criteria indicating that it poses a threat to humans, non-target organisms, or the environment, and labeling cannot sufficiently mitigate the hazard. For restricted use pesticides, special training in handling and applying the pesticide is necessary to ensure its safe use. Under FIFRA's regulations, the sale of restricted use pesticides is limited to certified applicators for use by those applicators or persons under their direct supervision. Applicators and supervisors of restricted use pesticides must be certified under Section 11 of FIFRA. Applicators who use restricted use pesticides must be certified to use pesticides by demonstrating competency in specified areas:
- Label and labeling comprehension
- Safety techniques
- Environmental awareness
- Pest identification
- Pesticide application
- Equipment use
- Application techniques
- Laws and regulations
The use of unclassified products is not limited in any manner, except in cases where a product label limits the use to a specific group (i.e., veterinarians).
Tribal governments who use certified pesticide applicators must keep and maintain various restricted use pesticide records. The records must include the types, amounts, uses, dates, and places of application of all restricted use pesticides. Tribes should keep records of the pesticide application method and pounds of pesticides use per acre and per crop. The records should also include information on the weather conditions and soil moisture when application occurred.
Pesticides are designed to (in most cases) kill pests. Many pesticides can also pose risks to people. EPA's Worker Protection Standard (WPS) are designed to protect agricultural workers from the effects of exposure to pesticides (40 CFR Part 170). The WPS standard is aimed at reducing the risk of pesticide poisonings and injuries among agricultural workers and handlers of agricultural pesticides. The WPS contains requirements for:
- Pesticide safety training
- Notification of pesticide applications
- Use of personal protective equipment
- Restricted entry intervals following pesticide application
- Decontamination supplies
- Emergency medical assistance
Training is essential for the proper use of pesticides and is key to the success of the WPS. To protect the health and safety of workers and handlers, employers are responsible for training them in the safe use of pesticides. Employers may either train their workers and handlers, or hire employees who have already been trained. Either way, employers must ensure that their employees understand the basic concepts of pesticide safety. Employees need to be trained by qualified trainers and must have the opportunity to ask questions during the training session.
Tribal governments may be responsible for storing any unused or excess pesticides. The recommended procedures and criteria for proper storage apply to pesticides that are classified as highly toxic or moderately toxic and have DANGER, POISON, or WARNING written on their labels. FIFRA defines adequate storage as placing pesticides in proper containers and in safe areas to minimize the possibility of an accidental release that could result in adverse effects on the environment.
Storage sites should be in a dry, well ventilated, separate area where fire protection is provided and special safeguards are in effect. . Identification signs should be posted to provide notice of the contents and hazardous nature of the pesticide. Potential environmental impacts from pesticide storage are air, soil, and water contamination from accidental releases, as well as human and animal toxic exposure. Because pesticides are typically stored in large quantities for future use, accidental releases may be large and have immediate, serious, and detrimental effects on the surrounding environment.
Temporary storage of highly toxic or moderately toxic pesticides may occur at isolated sites and facilities where it is unlikely they will encounter conditions that may cause a release. Each container should be stored with the label plainly visible, and the container should be inspected for corrosion and leaks. If a tribe stores or uses specified amounts of certain pesticides, it may be subject to the planning and reporting requirements of EPCRA and Section 112(r) of the CAA. These requirements are described below.
Risk Management Planning (CAA Section 112(R))
Under Section 112(r) of the CAA, facilities that any of 140 regulated substances in a single process are required to develop risk management programs and to summarize these programs in risk management plans by June 21, 1999 (40 CFR Part 68). EPA will notify the public of risk management plans, which are intended to prevent accidental releases of regulated substances and to reduce the severity of those releases that do occur. At present, EPA implements CAA section 112(R) for Indian country and will continue to do so in areas where tribes are not authorized under the Tribal Air Rule. EPA has been working with industry groups to develop model risk management programs. To review the model program, refer to EPA's Chemical Accident Prevention and Risk Management Planning Web site.
Notification of a Canceled or Suspended Pesticide
Under FIFRA, EPA or a registrant can cancel or suspend the registration of a pesticide or withdraw authorization for a specific use of a pesticide. In such situations, EPA will request that all entities having supplies of that pesticide notify the Agency. If a tribal government has any canceled or suspended pesticides, it must notify the EPA of the amount. EPA will respond with specific directions concerning handling of the pesticide.
Disposing of Pesticides
Pesticide management includes the disposal of excess pesticides that cannot be stored for later use or are no longer needed. Pesticide disposal can involve incineration, chemical degradation, burial in a specially designated landfill, or well and soil injection. The potential environmental impacts from pesticide disposal are air, soil, and water contamination from releases and accidental exposure of humans and animals. The environmental implications are the same as for the application process, except that the concentration of the pesticide may be stronger because of the quantity and mass of the disposed pesticide. The disposal of pesticides is a critical process; if not properly conducted it can have immediate detrimental effects on the environment.
Pesticide labels outline proper disposal guidelines. FIFRA, RCRA, and the CWA all regulate these practices. Disposal activities may require notifying EPA or a local solid waste disposal facility (landfill or incinerator).
Before disposing of excess pesticide, the tribal government should consider two options:
- Store and reuse any leftover portion at the prescribed dosage rates
- Return any excess to the manufacturer or distributor for relabeling or reprocessing into other materials
Pollution Prevention in Pesticide Management
Reduction in the use of pesticides in tribal government operations can be achieved by using Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM utilizes regular monitoring to determine if and when treatments are needed. It employs physical, mechanical, cultural, biological, and educational practices to keep pest numbers low. Least-toxic pest control methods are used as a last resort. These alternative methods result in decreased use of pesticides.
Many of the tips may not initially appear to be related to pesticide pollution prevention. However, the use of the tips will result in lowered reliance on pesticides by making plants healthier, and healthy plants are better able to withstand pest invasions. Although IPM reduces reliance on pesticides, some pesticide use may still be necessary. In these cases, pesticides should be used properly and safely.
Typical Wastes Generated
The following list presents typical waste generated during pesticide management and ways to handle them:
- Empty containers, including bags, drums, bottles, and cans. Containers should be triple rinsed or "jet rinsed" prior to disposal. Tripled rinsed containers should be crushed or punctured to prevent reuse. Containers can be reduced in quantity by buying in bulk however, never buy more than is needed. When possible, purchase in recyclable containers that can be returned to dealers
- Excess mixture (i.e., the diluted pesticide left over in the spray tank). The best disposal method is to use it on a site
- Excess product (i.e., the unused pesticide no longer needed due to a change in procedures or because the pest problems are solved). The best disposal method is to find someone who can use it
- Rinse water from containers and application equipment. This rinse water can be added to a tank and used
- Expired pesticides resulting from poor inventory management or from improper storage. Contact the vendor to inquire if the manufacturer will take back the product. If returns are not possible, the pesticides should be disposed properly and in a manner consistent with RCRA's hazardous waste provisions
Top Pollution Prevention Opportunities
The following recommendations can help tribal governments achieve reductions in pesticide and herbicide applications and maintain regulatory compliance associated with chemical use, storage, and disposal.
- Design for water conservation. Group plants with similar water needs together so they can be irrigated together, and water will not be wasted on plants that do not need it. Proper watering will reduce stress on plants and allow their natural resistance to withstand pest attacks without the need for pesticides
- Employ Environmental Landscape Management by selecting pest resistant plants, using sound planting techniques, and correctly manage the established landscape. Choose plants according to soil characteristics, rainfall, and sunlight conditions.
- Avoid monocultures. Monocultures (single-species planting, such as large areas of grass) are very susceptible to infestation since most pests are host-specific. Growing different species together prevents pests from readily spreading
- Reduce water runoff by building retaining walls, which direct water to a dry well or other areas to collect and percolate through soil. If pesticides are used, this will reduce the likelihood of contaminating nearby water bodies
- Use proper mowing practices. Mow grass with sharp blades. A dull blade rips grass making larger wounds and increasing susceptibility to disease pathogens. Sharp blades increase equipment efficiency and reduce wear on equipment. Never cut more than one-third the height of the grass at a single time
- Scout the landscape regularly to learn which plants have problems. Most plants (except grass) seldom have more than one major pest problem. Scouting identifies problems early and facilities solving problems using IPM without resorting to pesticides
- Use pesticides only when needed, not on a prescribed schedule. Use spot treatment instead of treating the entire area
- Correctly identify insects prior to treatment. Less than 1 percent of all insects are harmful to plants. Take care not to harm beneficial insects
- Use least toxic pest control methods
- Horticultural oils
- Insecticidal soaps
- Natural enemies such as:
- Pathogens, like as Bacillus thuringiensis, which infects and controls caterpillars
- Predators, such as purple martins, praying mantises, lady beetles, beneficial nematodes, and spiders
- Parasites, such as parasitic wasps
- Diatomaceous earth
- Boric acid
- Insect growth regulators, which halt or interfere with the development of an insect before it matures
- Pheromones, which disrupt normal mating behavior by stimulating breeding pests and luring them into traps
- Insect traps
- Mechanical treatments, such as cultivating to control weeds; hand picking of pests off plants, and sticky traps.
- Buy pesticides only in small quantities and store them carefully in labeled, airtight containers. Plan your purchases so pesticides do not expire
- Understand that pest eradication is generally an unrealistic management objective. An attempt to totally eliminate a pest is likely to result in excessive pesticide application
- Outsource pest control services and write IPM requirements into the specifications
- Keep clutter, excess water sources (e.g., drips or standing water in plants), and food waste minimized to discourage pests from entering buildings
For related information visit EPA’s National Indian Country Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Priority site and EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program in Indian country site.