Details of EPA's NPDES Pesticide General Permit

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its final Pesticide NPDES General Permit (PGP) on Oct. 31, 2011. NAAA has developed a comprehensive overview of the permit detailing the impacts of the permit on aerial applicators. The Association has also developed a number of documents bulleted below to aid aerial applicators in complying with the permits.

Please use the following links to help you understand and comply with the state and federal NPDES Pesticide General Permit:

Coverage by EPA’s PGP is automatic now for all that qualify for coverage, however some decision-making entities such as government and larger entities, including some decision-making applicators, must submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) to be covered. EPA posted several electronic worksheets, including an eNOI form, intended to reduce time burdens and help compliance. 

All of the other 44 states not covered by EPA’s PGP have some form of PGP in place, but they do vary considerably. That means if you have pesticide applications that extend across state borders you may need to comply with much different PGP requirements. Refer to NAAA’s analysis of all 44 State NPDES Pesticide General Permits to learn more about state PGPs.

EPA’s published PGP contains considerations for protection of endangered species that were outlined by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in their final Biological Opinion (BiOp). However, EPA still has to complete consultation with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS).

NAAA is pleased aerial applicators (for-hire contractors that are not also “Decision Makers”) do not have to submit an NOI to EPA for permit coverage, conduct components of integrated pest management, develop a Pesticide Discharge Management Plan, file annual reports, or meet the extra requirements from the NMFS for protecting endangered or threatened species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), or their critical habitat.  Those more complex permit compliance requirements will be the responsibility of Decisions Makers, such as state and federal agencies, municipalities, natural resource management agencies, and large private organizations directing pest control activities. 

Compliance requirements of aerial applicators include the requirement to use only the amount of pesticide and frequency of pesticide application necessary to control the target pest, using equipment and application procedures appropriate for this task. They must also maintain pesticide application equipment in proper operating condition, including calibration, cleaning, and repairing such equipment, and must also prevent leaks, spills and other unintended discharges. Aerial applicators must assess weather conditions in the treatment area to ensure application is consistent with all applicable federal requirements. For-hire applicators must also keep records that document pesticide application equipment maintenance and details of the pesticide application itself (e.g., documentation of equipment calibration; description of each treatment area, including location and size of treatment area and any water bodies present; pesticide use pattern, target pests treated; weather conditions, quantity and name of each pesticide product used including the EPA registration number; application date(s); if visual monitoring was conducted, and if not, why not; and if any unusual or unexpected effects occurred to non-target organisms). 

NAAA will continue to work with a coalition of agricultural organizations for a legislative exemption from Clean Water Act NPDES permits, and this effort may be tied to passage of other legislation. Work is underway in the 113th Congress to move legislation to overturn the requirement for PGP compliance. On March 5, H.R. 935, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2013, was introduced in the House of Representatives. It is essentially identical to legislation introduced last Congress. Agricultural interests are working to support Congressional efforts to enact this legislation, either as part of a renewed effort to enact a farm bill or a stand-alone bill.

In the meantime, aerial applicators should be aware that they must comply with the EPA or state PGPs in the states where they do business, and may be subject to citizen action suits immediately should they violate either the recordkeeping or performance aspects of the PGP.