NPDES and Aquatic Plant Management in Florida

Recent court rulings compelled the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state counterparts to develop NPDES regulations for pesticide applications to, over, or near waters of the United States. These regulations went into effect on October 31, 2011. EPA allowed each state to develop their own Pesticide General Permit (PGP) provided it addresses the basic provisions in the version administered nationally by the EPA. In Florida, authority for implementation is delegated to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Florida DEP, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS), and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) worked closely with the EPA in developing the Florida Pesticide Generic Permit authorized in Rule 62-621.300(8), Florida Administrative Code.

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program was created under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Water Act to regulate point sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States. The NPDES defines point-source pollutants as “. . .chemical waste, biological materials. . .and industrial, municipal, and agricultural waste discharged into water.” As of October 31, 2011, the definition includes point-source discharges from the application of pesticides to waters of the United States. For an overview, visit the EPA-NPDES-Pesticides website.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) contracts with government and private entities to control problem aquatic plants in Florida’s 1.25 million acres of public lakes and rivers. Much of this work is accomplished using herbicides registered by USEPA and DACS. FWC is required to file a Notice of Intent (NOI) with the Florida DEP as a result of the Commission’s extensive role in authorizing and funding the use of herbicides to control aquatic plants. Entities that file an NOI must also prepare a Pesticide Discharge Management Plan (PDMP) that, among other requirements, demonstrates integrated pest management strategies and documents steps taken to reduce pesticide discharges to waters of the US.

Because of the magnitude and frequency of aquatic plant management operations in Florida, many of which are urgent (due to compromised infrastructure, weather events, flood control, etc.), it is impossible to develop a PDMP for each pesticide application. In compliance with PDMP requirements, Section 4 of this website explains the many factors considered when building comprehensive management strategies for each Florida waterbody. Consequently the PDMP refers frequently and extensively to the information presented in this website. 

While DEP oversees NPDES permitting in Florida, other state agencies play significant roles in pesticide applications. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) registers pesticides for use in Florida, in addition to coordinating mosquito control activities in the state.

Last updated: 07 November 2011