Environmentalists want ‘zero tolerance’ pesticide management plan

Over two dozen environmental groups that have been helping the state develop a pesticide management program are calling on Department of Environmental Conservation officials to ban the use of certain toxic chemicals and to enact a “zero tolerance” policy in order to deter pesticides from contaminating groundwater.

Citizens Campaign for the Environment executive director Adrienne Esposito, whose group is one of 25 involved in helping craft the DEC’s Long Island Pesticide Use Management Plan, held a press conference at her Farmingdale office Wednesday morning, asking the DEC to immediately strengthen its role in protecting the area’s drinking water supply.

Part of the plan, which has been under development since 1998, includes data the DEC has compiled on contaminants detected in groundwater. The data show there are over 120 active pesticides in Long Island’s water supply and identify the three most toxic pesticides detected: imidacloprid, metalaxyl and atrazine.

“We believe the DEC has failed in their mandate to protect our drinking water,” Ms. Esposito said in an interview last week. “We’re calling on the DEC to ban the top three worst and most toxic pesticides used on Long Island that are frequently found in weed killers and insecticides and we’re asking the DEC to create a zero tolerance policy to help protect our drinking water.”

Imidacloprid is commonly used on farms, lawns and golf courses. According to the study, very high concentrations of this chemical are found on the North Fork. Ms. Esposito said this is of particular concern since many residents there continue to receive their water from private wells.

Metalaxyl is a fungicide that readily leaches into sandy soils and is linked to kidney and liver damage, she said.

Atrazine is one of the most widely used herbicides in the U.S. Ms. Esposito said studies show this chemical has possible carcinogenic effects and has an epidemiological connection to low sperm counts in men.

In addition to banning these chemicals, environmentalists are asking the DEC to adopt a zero tolerance policy because they believe not enough is known about the potential adverse effects these chemicals could have on the public.

Robert DeLuca, Group for the East End president and a former county health department biologist, said governments “can’t just run public water in every time there’s a problem.”

“It’s not just because public water is expensive,” he continued. “It’s because these chemicals are still finding their way into our bays and waterways.”

DEC officials were not immediately available for comment.

[email protected]