Are pesticides a problem in El Paso?

Although it has been illegal to sell the pesticide diazinon for residential use in the United States since December 31, 2004, traces of pesticides have been detected at several El Paso Water Utilities wastewater treatment plants. These facilities were not designed to remove all pesticides, so they can pass through unchanged. Tests conducted by EPA show diazinon and other pesticides can have a serious, adverse impact on aquatic organisms and can harm the quality of receiving waters, in this case, the Rio Grande.

What has been done to reduce the use of pesticides?

Efforts to reduce or eliminate these pollutants have been ongoing. In fact, a 1989 EPA Administrative Order required wastewater treatment plants to test discharges to surface waters for adverse or harmful effects on living organisms. The test conducted at the Haskell R. Street Wastewater Treatment Plant revealed some impact on a few select organisms. When follow-up testing confirmed diazinon as a primary toxicant, El Paso Water Utilities was required to implement a diazinon abatement program.

What is the Pesticide Publication Education Program?

The El Paso Water Utilities public education program was implemented in 1997 and expanded to include all areas of the city. It alerts users to the hazards associated with the improper use and disposal of pesticides. Bill inserts, workshops, presentations, newspaper articles, radio programs and other programs have been used to disseminate information. In addition, the Texas Cooperative Extension was retained to provide technical and educational assistance.

How do pesticides enter the sewer system?

Pesticides enter the sewer system when they are put directly into household and commercial drains, commodes, floor drains and manholes. Rain and over-watering can wash pesticides from lawns into manholes and storm drains. Pesticides can enter the system when water used to clean floors or carpets in areas treated with pesticide is discharged into the sewer or when rags contaminated with pesticide are washed in washing machines that discharge into the sewer.

How can I help?

You can help by reading the label carefully before purchasing pesticides. Always identify the pest and purchase the correct pesticide for the job. Follow the directions for mixing and use exactly as printed on the label. Overdosing can kill your garden or harm your family or pets. Remember: A little may be good, but a lot can be dangerous!

Always follow directions when disposing of pesticides and NEVER put the unused portion of the pesticide down household drains, commodes, commercial drains, storm drains or manholes. Perform clean-up activities on the lawn. Avoid overwatering lawns to prevent pesticide run-off. Dispose of water that may have come into contact with pesticides on the lawn. If you hire licensed professionals to help eliminate pests in and around your home, know which pesticide is used and ask how they will dispose of any unused chemical.

What should I do with leftover pesticide?

If you have old or leftover pesticide, please take it to one of the Citizen Collection Stations located throughout the city.

Where can I find more information?

For more information about safe pesticide use, visit the EPA website.