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David Robson Extension Educator, Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois

Yard & Garden

A hair-pulling regulation
Robson explains how to cope with pesticide rules

Fortunately, good follicular genes have kept most of the hair on my head, though the forehead has been expanding ever so slightly. And Tammy, my hair cutter, does a wonderful job keeping it short.

I state this fact because if it weren’t for the genes and Tammy, my hair would be pulled out by government regulations — and one in particular.

All this is rather funny since, as a pesticide safety specialist with the University of Illinois, I live and breathe with regulations dealing with chemicals applied to control those things that give us so much trouble in the fields, in the yard and indoors.

Some of the regulations can make your head spin, but ultimately there appears to be some logical sense to them, even though many would swear they do not.

And, of course, this leads to a new regulation that may or may not apply to you.

It goes by the initials NPDES - National Pollution Discharge Elimination System. Just reading the description will probably cause you to scratch your head wondering what it means.

NPDES isn’t new. Communities with sewage systems and large scale livestock producers have had to deal with it. It’s just that the federal courts have decreed it be applied to a new situation.

That ruling is to anyone who applies pesticides “in, on or near water’s edge to waters of the United States.”

First, “waters of the United States” is water that moves from one spot to another in the simplest terms. In this case, it’s water that moves above ground, or what’s called surface water. Ground water is another matter and doesn’t apply.

Backyard swimming pools and fish ponds are exempt, since they technically are contained. So are the so-called borrow pits you see along the interstate, where you are looking at a big pit with no overflow pipe.

Farm ponds with an overflow pipe are a prime candidate. So are retention ponds that are built these days to catch water run-off from parking lots. Lakes, rivers and streams are all included as they are waters of the United States.

If you are applying any pesticides to these, such as to control weeds or insects, you need a permit. That’s almost black and white and not worthy of much stress.

You won’t need a permit if you are applying chemicals to your lawn, garden or farm field. Or will you?

It gets muddier and that’s where the hair can turn gray or fall out – when you talk about “near water’s edge.” This is where ditches and waterways and “close to the edge of a pond” come into play no matter if you are a homeowner, farmer or businessman.

If there is no water in these areas when applying the chemicals and it doesn’t appear there will be any (such as rain) until the chemical has broken down, you don’t need to worry.

That’s called “Best Professional Judgment” - you follow the forecast, you know the geography and topography of the land, and you know about the chemical you’re using.

On the other hand, if you know there’s water in the ditch or waterway, or soon will be, and you know it will flow from Point A to some Point B, it wouldn’t hurt to get a permit.

Yes, it’s paperwork but it’s not that difficult. Just give yourself a half hour. On the other hand, it’s currently free, and you can apply online.

All of this may be causing your hair to turn or fall out. To help, the Pesticide Safety Education Program has prepared a website with helpful information. You can visit it at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/psep/. Just creating this FAQ could have induced alcohol poisoning if not for strong genetics again.

If you have a question about this, drop me a line at drobson@illinois.edu.

Also, if you think you need to apply, head over to the IL-EPA website at http://www.epa.state.il.us/water/permits/pesticide/index.html

 


More Information:

David Robson is Extension Specialist, Pesticide Safety for the University of Illinois. drobson@illinois.edu

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