Forest Service Takes Heat Over Using Fire Retardant to Fight Wildfiresby Hugh Holub on May. 26, 2011, under environment water and energy, politics
From Suite 101:
By D.A. Barber
The U.S. Forest Service is reviewing environmental concerns over aerial-dropped fire retardant while its use continues on growing wildfires in the West.
Though the public comment period for a draft environmental impact statement concerning use of chemical retardants on wildfires is currently underway through the end of June, the U.S. Forest Service is continuing its use.
The next public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, May 26, 2011, in Missoula, Montana, with more planned for California, Arizona and Washington State.
The draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), now in a 45-day public comment period, is the result of a 2010 District Court ruling forcing the Forest Service to comply with national environmental laws. That ruling directed the Forest Service to scientifically outline the environmental impact of dropping the chemical fire retardants on plants, animals and fish in national forests by a December 2011 deadline.
Meanwhile, the Forest Service continues to use the bright red fire retardant on Arizona’s 47,280-acre Horseshoe Two fire in the Coronado National Forest and on the 86,680-acre Miller fire in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest.
See also LA Times story May 30, 2011:
…The chief environmental concern is retardant’s effects on aquatic life and water quality. When the chemical mixture hits a stream or lake, the ammonia in the retardant can be lethal to fish and other organisms. Although the concentrations quickly fall, retardant can have a lingering effect on water chemistry.
If tankers douse stream banks, the retardant can remain toxic for several weeks, during which time rain can wash it into the water.
The Forest Service says that of more than 170,000 retardant loads dumped on public lands in the last decade, only 34 have affected waterways and just a few have killed fish. But in previous environmental documents, the National Marine Fisheries Service argued that many retardant mishaps go undetected by fire crews too busy battling flames to scour remote streams for belly-up fish.
The fisheries agency concluded in 2008 that retardant use in or near waterways could jeopardize more than two dozen endangered and threatened species of fish, including salmon, trout and sturgeon.
Can you begin to understand how crazy it is out there….one cannot even fight a forest fire any more without an environmental impact statement.