Stronger Enforcement Needed Against Misuse of Pesticides

CED-82-5: Published: Oct 15, 1981. Publicly Released: Oct 15, 1981.

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GAO reviewed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state pesticide programs to enforce pesticide laws and suggested ways to improve program activities. GAO also reviewed special pesticide registrations to determine if some of the problems identified in an earlier GAO report had been corrected.

Although improvements have been made in recent years, GAO found that the public may not always be protected from pesticide misuse because EPA and the states: sometimes take questionable enforcement actions against violators, have not implemented adequate program administration and monitoring, and are approving the use of pesticides for special local and emergency needs which may be circumventing the normal pesticide registration procedures of EPA. Enforcement programs do not always protect the public and the environment because many enforcement actions are questionable or inconsistent, some cases are poorly investigated, state agencies often do not share the EPA enforcement philosophy, and most states lack the ability to impose civil penalties. The majority of states have improved their pesticide laws, purchased new equipment to upgrade laboratories, hired additional staff, and conducted more inspections. However, EPA and the states have not developed adequate management information to document pesticide enforcement activities. EPA monitoring of state programs has been limited and directed at administrative aspects rather than evaluations of the adequacy of enforcement actions. There is a lack of quick and effective processing of misuse cases referred between EPA and the states and between EPA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because of inadequate recordkeeping systems, lack of followup actions by the referring agency, and untimely enforcement actions. New EPA reporting requirements are a first step in providing a basis for evaluating the quality of enforcement ac

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of EPA should take action to help the states improve the quality of investigations and enforcement actions. This could include providing additional inspection and enforcement guidelines.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: EPA disagrees with the recommendation. EPA maintains that this is a preogative that should be left to the States.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of EPA should encourage the passage of state laws which provide authority for assessing civil penalties. This could include an outreach effort through the EPA regions with letters to State Governors and key legislators.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The EPA Administrator should require EPA regional offices and states to improve recordkeeping and reporting systems so that accurate, complete, and timely data are generated and information on program results is provided.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The EPA Administrator should establish standards for increasing the frequency and scope of onsite monitoring to ensure state compliance with regulations and to evaluate the quality of investigations and enforcement action.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The EPA Administrator should strengthen coordination with FDA and improve management controls over referrals to ensure appropriate and expeditious investigations and enforcement actions.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services, through the Commissioner, FDA, should improve management controls over referrals and strengthen coordination with EPA to help assure that investigations and enforcement actions are properly carried out. This could include requiring FDA to document pesticide misuse cases that it refers to EPA and establishing a system to monitor the status of cases referred.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  7. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: EPA views the recommendation as being in direct conflict with its established policy to delegate authority for these types of registrations to the States. EPA does not intend to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of EPA should review each similar special local need registration to ensure that products or additional uses are being properly registered by the states.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of EPA should develop an information system which identifies emergency exemptions by state so that repetitive requests can be analyzed and reviewed for conformance with Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act guidelines.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of EPA should notify states that repetitive emergency exemptions will not be approved unless their justifications are fully documented.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of EPA should direct EPA regional office inspectors to emphasize the importance of conducting proper investigations and taking appropriate enforcement actions.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of EPA should require the EPA Registration Division, regional offices, and state offices to better coordinate experimental-use monitoring. This could include a requirement that requesters of experimental-use permits notify EPA regional and state officials when they actually plan to conduct their experiments.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

 

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