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Pesticide Applications into Surface Waters

Update on the Pesticide General Permit (2300-A) and Irrigation System General Permit (2000-J) as of November 2013

Pesticide General Permit (2300-A)

The pesticide general permit, issued in October 2011, is a NPDES general water quality permit for certain pesticide applications that result in a discharge in, over or near surface water. DEQ believes the permits should result in long-range, beneficial impact on water quality in Oregon.

This permit affects operators who decide to apply pesticides or have day-to-day control over pesticide application. These operators include weed control districts, vector control districts, golf courses, lake and marina managers, large landholdings, public utilities, and federal, state and municipal agencies whose pesticides applications reach water.

Permit coverage is available for the following pesticide applications:

While a wide range of operators are covered under the permit and need to follow its regulations, registration, fees, and reports to DEQ will only be required from government agencies, some districts and large-scale pesticide applications identified in Table 1.

To help operators complete the application for registration and satisfy the permit recordkeeping, notification and reporting requirements, DEQ has mapping tools and GIS layers available.

Use the geographic/facility search on the Facility Profiler to identify water bodies and water suppliers. For information on how to use Facility Profiler to identify water suppliers of source water, see the instructions. 

The Oregon Water Resources Department has Interactive Water Right Maps to identify points of diversion for domestic water users with water rights permits.

GIS layers are also available for lakes and rivers and surface water drinking water source areas.

A list of water quality limited 303(d) listed water bodies can identified by using DEQ’s Water Quality Assessment Database.

General permit for pesticide use in irrigation systems (2000-J)

DEQ is developing a new permit (the 2000-J) for pesticide use in irrigation systems. DEQ conducted a public comment period on the proposed permit that ended in fall 2012. Until this permit is made available, pesticide use at irrigation systems can continue to use pesticide general permit 2300-A.

The proposed 2000-J general permit would regulate the use of pesticides for weed and algae control within irrigation system boundaries. Weed and algae control is the application, by any means, of contact or systemic herbicides to control vegetation and algae in the water and within three feet of water. Irrigation systems that may need to register for this permit include:
  • Irrigation districts formed under ORS Chapter 545
  • Irrigation districts or companies previously covered by an individual NPDES permit for the application of aquatic pesticides in irrigation systems
  • Entities, such as, individual farmers, cooperatives or private companies that operate irrigation systems when pesticide applications in the irrigation system or at the water’s edge exceed an total treatment area of 20 acres of surface area or 20 linear miles in a calendar year.

The proposed 2000-J general permit does not apply to pesticide applications to dry land. NPDES permits do not apply to agricultural stormwater discharges and irrigation return flow from irrigated agriculture because these are excluded from permitting under the Clean Water Act.

Which permit applies until DEQ issues the 2000-J General Permit?

Irrigation districts that currently have individual permits can continue to operate under those permits for acrolein-, copper- and xylene-based aquatic pesticide use and comply with the conditions of the new 2300-A pesticide general permit for other pesticide use in, over, or within three feet of water. Irrigation systems that do not have an individual permit also need to comply with the conditions of the 2300-A pesticide general permit until DEQ issues the final 2000-J general permit. Irrigation systems must register for 2300-A pesticide general permit coverage if pesticide applications in, over, or within three feet of water exceed a total treatment area of 20 acres of surface area or 20 linear miles in a calendar year. Repeated pesticide applications to the same treatment area are not counted.

DEQ will waive new application fees for the 2000-J general permit will be waived for irrigation systems registered under the 2300-A pesticide general permit or irrigation systems with an individual NPDES permit.

Background on water quality permits for pesticide use

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule in November 2006 that clarified two specific circumstances in which a Clean Water Act permit is not required before pesticides are applied. The two situations are when pesticides are:

  • applied directly to water to control pests, including mosquito larvae, aquatic weeds and other pests in the water
  • applied to control pests that are present over or near water where a portion of the pesticide will unavoidably be deposited to the water in order to target the pests effectively.

In effect the rule meant that pesticides legally registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act for application to or near aquatic environments, and legally applied to control pests at those sites, were not subject to NPDES permit requirements. The rule became effective Jan. 26, 2007. Challenges to the rule were filed in 11 circuit courts around the country. The challenges were consolidated for hearing in the Sixth Circuit Court. On Jan. 7, 2009, the Sixth Circuit Court ruled that NPDES permits are required for:

  • all biological pesticide applications and
  • chemical pesticide applications that leave a residue or excess pesticide in water

When the applications are made in or over or near U.S. waters. The court ruling affects DEQ because EPA authorizes DEQ to issue NPDES permits and conduct the compliance and monitoring for these permits.

The Sixth Circuit Court gave EPA two years to develop a general permit so that by April 9, 2011, the regulated community was required to be covered under the pesticide general permit. EPA requested and received an extension on the court-ordered date. NPDES permits were required by Oct. 31, 2011. EPA issued the permit on Oct. 31, 2011.

EPA’s pesticide general permit covers discharges in areas where EPA is the NPDES permitting authority, which include four states (Idaho, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New Mexico), 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).

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Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
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