Editorial: Failure to enforce pesticide regulations shows poor commitment to environment
Last month, the Hartford Courant published the findings of an alarming report showing that many businesses are not following Connecticut's pesticide laws, and the state's pesticide regulation unit is basically incapable of enforcing the laws.
State records obtained by the Hartford Courant said that the Department of Environmental Protection has received more than 400 complaints of pesticide violations in the past three years but issued only 20 fines. The agency is deeply understaffed, underfunded and officials said most of their resources go toward processing license applications, not enforcing pesticide laws.
There are nearly 3,000 licensed pesticide applicators in Connecticut and only nine people in the office to oversee them. Each of those businesses is supposed to file annual reports on their pesticide usage, and many falsify information or never turn in the reports at all. Even more troubling is the fact that officials said they've never had enough staff to actually review the reports. Businesses are complaining that competitors who don't follow the laws are undercutting their profits, and the agency isn't doing its job to prevent this.
Clearly, these are serious issues. The state's commitment to the environment and the business community isn't being upheld. These regulations exist for a reason: certain pesticides can be extremely harmful to the environment and to people. They can stay in the soil for years or contaminate buildings.
A license to drive would be meaningless without police officers on the road to enforce the rules license holders agree to follow, and the same is true for pesticide application. A licensing agreement carries no weight if the body granting the license can't enforce its stipulations. There will continue to be more abuses of these laws unless they can be enforced Under the current system, law-abiding businesses must spend time preparing and submitting paperwork that won't even be read, and businesses that don't abide by the law are often not punished for failing to submit their reports.
The pesticide regulation agency's budget has been slashed by about 25 percent in the last 10 years, despite the fact that the number of licensed pesticide users has grown steadily. State Sen. Ed Meyer told the Hartford Courant that the environment committee had been pushing for better funding for the agency for a decade. There are no plans to increase funding in the version of Gov. Malloy's budget that is currently under consideration. Hopefully, the legislature will recognize the necessity of pesticide regulation and provide the agency with the resources they need.
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