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Subsurface Agricultural Irrigation Drainage: The Need for RegulationAuthor(s): A. Dennis Lemly
Source: Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 17, l57-180
Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication
PDF: Download Publication (486 B)
DescriptionSubsurface drainage resulting from irrigated agriculture is a toxic threat to fish and wildlife resources throughout the western United States. Studies by the U.S. Department of the Interior show that migratory waterfowl have been poisoned by drainwater contaminants on at least six national wildlife refuges. Allowing this poisoning to continue is a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act under U.S. Federal law. Critical wetlands and waterfowl populations are threatened in both the Pacific and Centralflyways. The public is also at risk and health warnings have been issued in some locations. Subsurface irrigation drainage is a complex effluent containing toxic concentrations of trace elements, salts, and nitrogenous compounds. Some of the contaminants are classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as priority pollutants and they can be present in concentrations that exceed EPA's criteria for toxic waste. The on-farm drainage systems used to collect and transport this wastewater provide point-source identification as well as a mechanism for toxics control through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit process. A four-step approach is presented for dealing with irrigation drainage in an environmentally sound manner. This regulatory strategy is very similar to those commonly used for industrial discharges and includes site evaluation, contaminant reduction through NPDES, and compliance monitoring. The EPA must recognize subsurface irrigation drainage as a specific class of pollution subject to regulation under the NPDES process. Active involvement by EPA is necessary to ensure that adequate controls on this wastewater are implemented.
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CitationLemly, A. Dennis. 1993. Subsurface Agricultural Irrigation Drainage: The Need for Regulation. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 17, l57-180
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