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EPA APPROVES USDA REQUEST TO CONTROL MEDFLY OUTBREAK IN FLA. AFTER ESTABLISHING A SERIES OF SPECIAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTIONS

Release Date: 06/04/98
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FOR RELEASE: THURSDAY, JUNE 4, 1998
EPA APPROVES USDA REQUEST TO CONTROL MEDFLY OUTBREAK IN FLA.
AFTER ESTABLISHING A SERIES OF SPECIAL HEALTH AND
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTIONS

After setting strict conditions to protect public health and the environment, EPA has approved a crisis authorization request from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to control a major medfly outbreak in the Bradenton/Palmetto area of central Florida. EPA’s approval was based on requiring restrictions on the use of the pesticide malathion so that the medfly outbreak can be controlled while minimizing potential risks to human health and the environment.
“Because of the seriousness of a medfly infestation for Florida and its people, EPA is approving the use of malathion to control any outbreak. However, we have based this approval upon the condition that USDA and the state take a series of measures to protect public health and the environment and minimize the use of malathion,” said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner. “We set special restrictions that will enable control of the medfly outbreak while ensuring that the citizens of Bradenton and Palmetto are protected and informed during this eradication effort.”

Among the conditions USDA and the state of Florida have agreed to, are:

• Limiting the aerial spraying of malathion to a critical zone which encompasses a 50 square mile treatment area;

• The aggressive use of natural controls, including the release of sterile medflies in areas outlying Bradenton and Palmetto to prevent the movement of medflies beyond the infested area;

• The establishment of public right-to-know efforts, including public meetings, communication materials with advice for avoiding risk, a minimum 48-hour notice for any decision to apply malathion, and special individualized notification for persons who identify themselves as chemically sensitive or who have special needs;

• Treatments will be limited to no more than three aerial applications in order to address the complete reproductive life cycle of the medfly. Also, applications will be prohibited around major water bodies to protect against spray drift. Water, soil and vegetation samples will be taken both before and after any aerial treatments and the Florida Department of Health will develop a list of sensitive sites, such as hospitals, that will be excluded from the spray area.

If not effectively and safely controlled, EPA estimates the cost of a major infestation to the Florida economy could result in a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in crop losses, directly affecting tomato and citrus growers and other farmers, and could also require increased use of other pesticides.

Based on these measures EPA believes that USDA and the state of Florida will be able to effectively control the medfly outbreak in the Bradenton/Palmetto area, while protecting human health and the environment. Similar agreements have been reached with USDA and Florida in connection with medfly outbreaks in Lake county and the Miami area in recent weeks. EPA will remain engaged in the implementation of the Bradenton/Palmetto and other programs to carefully monitor any use of malathion and to ensure the protection of public health and the environment.



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