WA Department of Ecology improving permits that manages control of aquatic plants and algae

LACEY, WA -  The department of Ecology is currently working to update the Aquatic Plant and Algae Management general permit and proposing a new style of sign to meet the permit requirement for treatment notification.

Washington is fortunate to have some amazing waterbodies in this state, it can take a lot of work to maintain the health of rivers, streams, and lakes.

If you live in Washington, chances are you’ve heard of toxic algae blooms, seen a shoreline covered with cattails, or maybe you’ve had Eurasian watermilfoil tangle your paddle or choke your boat motor. For the most part, this means the Department of Ecology works to reduce the amount of chemicals going into the water. However, there are circumstances where certain chemicals can actually help achieve clean water and preserve the beneficial uses of water.

For decades, the Department of Ecology has been required by state law to provide a permitting program that allows lake managers to use pesticides and other chemicals to control noxious aquatic weeds. The permit applies to fresh water bodies and shorelines as well as roadside ditches. Our permitting program only allows registered pesticides that do not pose a risk to the environment or public health. These registered pesticides are approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Agriculture. To make sure these pesticides meet state laws, the Department of Ecology will further review these chemicals through an environmental impact statement.

An excerpt from RCW 90.48.447 helps explain why Washington has a general permit for Aquatic Plant and Algae Management:

“The legislature finds that the environmental, recreational, and aesthetic values of many of the state’s lakes are threatened by the invasion of nuisance and noxious aquatic weeds. Once established, these nuisance and noxious aquatic weeds can colonize the shallow shorelines and other areas of lakes with dense surface vegetation mats that degrade water quality, pose a threat to swimmers, and restrict use of lakes. Algae can generate health and safety conditions dangerous to fish, wildlife, and humans.”

The department of Ecology is currently working to update the Aquatic Plant and Algae Management general permit. Specifically, for this permit they also review monitoring data, modify timing windows or propose other actions that better protect sensitive species.

The Aquatic Plant and Algae Management general permit requires people to use management solutions that have the least environmental impact among reasonably available options. Chemicals can sometimes be the least invasive solution to control plants and algae.

The permit ensures the chemicals used, and the methods by which they’re applied, are the least harmful to animals and other plants. The permit limits which chemicals are allowed to be used, where they can be used, and who may use them. They also require public notification before a water body is treated, and outline specific rules around the reporting and timing of applying the chemical.

As part of this permit update, the Department of Ecology is proposing a new style of sign to meet the permit requirement for treatment notification. These notification signs are required whenever pesticides are used and have a warning statement at the top, usually Caution, Warning, or Danger, to signify the warning level followed by specific text information.

Over the years, Ecology has heard ideas on how to improve these signs to add graphics so they are not so text heavy. The new signs proposed in the new permit rely more on iconography or simple images to convey message. Providing signage that is easily understood by anyone, regardless of literacy level or primary language, is important for protecting public health. The Department of Ecology welcomes input on how to make further improvements to the signs. See how to comment below

We are also clarifying how permittees need to label their intended treatment area on their public notices. This update is the result of feedback provided to us based on confusion in other pesticide treatment notices.