November 20, 1983: Pesticide in Florida wells

Ethylene Dibromide

Ethylene Dibromide

November 20, 1983New York Times headline—Pesticide Reported in More Wells in Florida. “Evidence is increasing that a pesticide banned in September by the Federal Government because it is a cancer- causing agent is invading the underground drinking water reservoirs of Florida.

Since July, when Florida state chemists began testing drinking water wells for ethylene dibromide, known as EDB, an average of 20 percent of the wells sampled have been found to contain more than the level Florida health officials consider safe, one part of the chemical for every 10 billion parts of water.

Until last week, testing had been confined to areas near 422 acres of ”buffer zones” along citrus groves where large amounts of the pesticide were injected to block the spread of root worms, which are burrowing nematodes. The doses, more than three times the amount prescribed by Environmental Protection Agency, were applied by the State Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which regulates pesticide use in Florida.

But state agriculture officials said 10 times more land in Florida’s citrus area had been treated with big doses of the pesticide than they had first reported.

State records show 4,268 acres, rather than 422, were treated with the pesticide under a Federal and state agriculture program begun in 1961. State health, agriculture and environmental officials say they have no records of how much EDB was applied to other crops by farmers and exterminators. The Federal Government allowed treatment with the pesticide on nearly 40 crops until Sept. 30, when William D. Ruckelshaus, the E.P.A. Administrator, issued an emergency ban on its use as a soil fumigant.”

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