Clean Water Act NPDES Impacts on Mosquito Control Programs

Issue: Mosquito Control Programs (MCP’s) across the country continue to face increased costs and potential reductions in service due to the implementation of NPDES permits under the Clean Water Act (CWA) for mosquito control pesticide applications. These unnecessary permits adversely impact MCP operations, provide impetus for anti-pesticide activists to initiate legal challenges and can adversely affect the ability of MCPs to protect the public from mosquitoes and mosquito borne diseases while providing little or no environmental benefits.

Background: Due to a court ruling in 2009, EPA and the states have instituted NPDES permits for the application of mosquito control pesticides. EPA issued its General Pesticide NPDES permit on October 31, 2011. The authorized states have issued similar permits.  The failure to obtain and comply by such a permit can subject MCPs to costly litigation through the citizen suit provisions of the CWA.

Discussion: While AMCA has worked with EPA and authorized states to craft permits that minimize compromise to MCP’s public health missions, it is clear the NPDES permits have resulted in public monies being spent on unnecessary, duplicative and costly regulations that can affect the use of public health pesticides.  Pesticides are already effectively regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), including effects on water and aquatic organisms.  InCalifornia alone, state-wide compliance with the general permit has exceeded $1 million dollars. Mosquito and vector control agencies simply do not have the resources to absorb these significant additional costs without affecting their public health and welfare missions. Most mosquito districts nationwide have advised that they would have to shut down their operations because they could not afford to comply with a “California” permit. 

We support Congressional action to remove this unnecessary burden and litigation threat to our members and other similarly affected groups.  This could be accomplished in a variety of ways ranging from passing an independent bill or including appropriate language in other legislation being developed such as the Farm Bill. Regardless of the legislative mechanism to be used, the legislation should make clear that the regulation of public health pesticides should continue under FIFRA and further duplicative regulation under the CWA is inefficient and unnecessary. The current NPDES General Permit program for public health pesticides should be terminated.  This is a bipartisan problem that requires bipartisan support. Enactment of such legislation will help ensure that scarce valuable resources are not wasted and public health missions are not compromised by duplicative and unnecessary regulations such as that currently reflected in the NPDES Pesticide Permits for mosquito control.

Needed Action:   We urge Congress to pass legislation that will clarify that pesticide application for mosquito control is regulated under FIFRA and not the Clean Water Act NPDES program.  Such legislation can either be enacted as stand-alone legislation or included in the Farm Bill being developed.