EPA Should Act Promptly to Minimize Contamination of Groundwater by Pesticides

T-RCED-91-46: Published: May 8, 1991. Publicly Released: May 8, 1991.

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GAO discussed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to minimize pesticide groundwater contamination, focusing on its: (1) assessment of pesticides' leaching potential; (2) regulation of pesticides that may leach into groundwater; and (3) consideration of human exposure to pesticides in groundwater when setting and reviewing limits for pesticide residues in food. GAO noted that: (1) EPA needed to take more initiative in ensuring the minimization of pesticide contamination; (2) EPA was slow in reviewing scientific assessments of pesticides' potential to leach into groundwater, resulting in the unavailability of detailed information concerning leaching factors to pesticide applicators; (3) EPA was slow in reassessing older pesticides; (4) while EPA sometimes used available regulatory measures, it could do more to help prevent further groundwater contamination; (5) EPA assessment of pesticide-contaminated food risks did not routinely consider additional exposure that could result from pesticide-contaminated groundwater, resulting in a lack of assurance that EPA set pesticide tolerances low enough to protect public health; and (6) EPA planned to implement a new program assigning states a major role in managing pesticide use to minimize groundwater contamination, but EPA will still have to continue regulatory actions, since the program will not encompass all potentially hazardous pesticides and because EPA did not anticipate program implementation for several years.

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