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Misapplied Herbicides Enter Klamath River Tributary

SAN FRANCISCO, California, July 20, 2008 (ENS) – Trees, Inc., one of the nation’s largest tree service companies, has been hit with a federal fine of $12,300 for causing two herbicides to enter a tributary of the Klamath River after employees failed to follow instructions on the product labels.

Trees, Inc., a 55 year old company based in Houston, Texas, provides vegetation management services to utilities and municipalities nationwide.

In April 2007, Trees, Inc. sprayed the herbicides Direx 4L and Garlon 4 in a pool of water abutting Junior Creek, which feeds into the Klamath River on the Resighini Rancheria tribal lands in Northern California.

Both herbicide labels prohibit applicators from applying the products directly to water or to areas where surface water is present.

“Klamath River watershed, from the Oregon border to the Pacific Ocean, supports several native fish species, including coho and steelhead salmon,” said Alexis Strauss, director of the Water Division for the Pacific Southwest region.

“The EPA is committed to working with the tribe and California to enforce federal laws to protect these valued resources,” said Strauss.

The Resighini Rancheria notified the EPA of the violations, and the agency then investigated the company’s application of the herbicides.

The tribe provided the EPA with water sampling and testing results, which later showed both pesticides had entered Junior Creek.

Pesticides that are registered for use in the United States must include labeling that provides directions for use and other information necessary to protect human health and the environment.

Failure to follow instructions on the label is a violation of the federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. This law requires that pesticide applicators comply with labeling directions during commercial pesticide applications to protect workers, the surrounding community and the environment

The Clean Water Act requires companies that discharge into waterways to obtain a pollutant discharge permit, which contain limits on discharges, monitoring and reporting requirements, and other provisions to ensure that water quality and human health are protected.

By not following label directions and allowing the pesticides to reach the stream, Trees, Inc. also violated the Clean Water Act in lacking a permit to discharge, the EPA said.

A Dupont product, the active ingredient in Direx 4L is diuron, a broad-spectrum herbicide used for weed, grass, and brush control on highway shoulders. It stops photosynthesis, which in turn causes plants to stop growing.

Vegetation managers and foresters use Garlon 4 herbicide from Dow AgroSciences to control unwanted weeds, brush and trees beneath electrical power lines, along railroad beds, roadsides, pipelines, in commercial forestry and wildlife openings, including grazed areas on these sites. Garlon 4 contains the active ingredient triclopyr.

Both chemicals – diuron and triclopyr – are known to be moderately to highly toxic to fish.

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