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Pesticides

Pennsylvania has two programs for regulating the environmental impacts associated with the use of pesticides in or near surface waters: 1) a joint DEP and PA Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) water quality permit program and 2) the NPDES permit program.

Joint Permit Program

DEP's regulations at 25 Pa. Code 91.38 require persons using chemicals (herbicides, algicides or fish control chemicals) to control aquatic plants in surface waters or to manage fish populations to obtain a joint approval from DEP and PFBC prior to use. These regulations also require DEP approval prior to using copper sulfate to control algae in public water supply sources. Persons wishing to use herbicides, algicides or fish control chemicals in surface waters within Pennsylvania must submit a permit application to DEP for each body of water to be treated. A copy of the application must be submitted to PFBC if free flowing waters (i.e., not lakes or ponds) will be treated or if surface waters will be treated to control fish populations. If approval is granted by both agencies, the permit will be effective for three years for treatments to waters classified as High Quality (HQ) or Exceptional Value (EV) under Chapter 93, and five years for treatments to all other waters. If there are planned changes during the permit term to the water bodies to be treated, to the amount of pesticides to be applied, or to the pesticides to be used, then a new application must be submitted to DEP and, when necessary, PFBC. The new permit must be issued prior to implementing the changes. There are no thresholds for this program; anyone applying any amount of herbicides, algicides or fish control chemicals to surface waters must receive a permit.

NPDES Permit Program

DEP issued a General NPDES Permit (PAG-15) (3800-PM-BCW0345) in 2011 in response to a court decision that overturned a rule exempting pesticide applications into or near bodies of water from the NPDES regulations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was required to develop a General Permit and, as a result, DEP developed its own General Permit because it is delegated by EPA to implement the NPDES program. The renewed General NPDES Permit (PAG-15) was issued on October 29, 2017. For a state or federal government agency ("government entity") with pest management as an integral part of the agency's mission, there are no thresholds governing when an NPDES permit is required. For everyone else ("non-government entities"), an NPDES permit is required only when pesticides will be applied for (1) the control of pests over an area of at least 6,400 acres (e.g., spraying for mosquitoes or gypsy moths), or (2) the control of weeds, algae or animal pests over an area of at least 80 acres of water or 20 continuous linear miles on water’s edge. If an NPDES permit is required, the Notice of Intent (NOI) for PAG-15 General Permit coverage may be submitted if the watershed where pesticide use will occur is not considered HQ or EV. If the watershed is HQ or EV, and/or for situations where pesticide usage will occur throughout multiple DEP regions, an individual NPDES permit application (3800-PM-BCW0025) is generally required. It is therefore possible that both a joint DEP/PFBC permit and an NPDES permit are required prior to applying pesticides. In such cases, where the pesticide use is approved, DEP coordinates the issuance of the permits so that they are issued simultaneously. In general, DEP issues permits to the person(s) who own or manage the property where pesticides will be used, i.e., the person(s) responsible for deciding to use pesticides (i.e., the “Decision Maker”), rather than the person(s) who actually applies the pesticides (i.e., the applicator). DEP has developed a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document to provide additional clarification on the permitting requirements for pesticides use in Pennsylvania. Questions may be directed to the BCW NPDES Permitting Division at 717-787-8184.