Written by Industry Expert Marcus Harris, Fisheries Biologist
The most common question I get asked while servicing a pond other than “How’s the fishing?” is “Will that stuff you’re spraying hurt my dog?” Unlike other landscape herbicides and fertilizers, aquatic products are relatively unknown to the general public. They see a bright blue liquid being sprayed into the water and instantly think “poison.” Add in the personal protection equipment (PPE) being worn by the applicator and they automatically think of strong, dangerous chemicals. In truth, aquatic herbicides are highly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and are safe for non-target plants and animals when applied by a licensed applicator in accordance with the product label.
Aquatic pesticides are products specifically formulated for use in water to control or kill aquatic plants and pond algae. These pesticides have to be registered and approved for use by the Environmental Protection Agency, which is not an easy, quick process. Getting a product EPA registered for aquatic use is one of the most difficult processes you can imagine. It takes years of research and millions of dollars and a product cannot be labeled for aquatic use if it poses more than a one in a million chance of causing significant damage to human health, the environment, or wildlife. It cannot show any signs of biomagnification, bioavailability, or persistence in the environment.
That being said, the products still need to be applied by a licensed applicator in accordance with the product label. We receive constant training to ensure we know all we can about the products we use. You may see us in our PPE and think we’re dressed to work with some nasty stuff but in reality it’s for our own safety. Risk = time of exposure + level of hazard. The hazard level of the products we use is very low but the time we are exposed to concentrated product throughout our careers is high compared to the average person. Wearing the proper PPE is essential for us to stay protected but is not an indicator of the nature of the products we use. In fact, most of the products we use are approved for use in drinking water sources at the extremely low dilution levels we apply.
On rare occasions a fish kill may happen after a treatment was performed. However this is typically not an indicator of an improperly performed treatment and not a toxicity issue. In cases of existing poor water quality, where the dissolved oxygen (DO) in the water is already very low, and where it drops even lower as a result of too much algae or plant material dying and decomposing at once, you might experience conditions conducive for fish to suffocate. This goes back to having a properly trained technician perform the application. We consider all factors including temperature, treatment timing, herbicidal mode of action, follow correct label rates, and treatment methodology to greatly minimize any risks of DO drop.
To answer the questions: Is it safe to fish in the pond or for my dog to swim in the water? The answer is yes, as long as you use the correct herbicide, follow the instructions, and limit the use of the herbicides that might contain such restrictions. There is no threat to people, pets, fish, birds, turtles, frogs, or any other wildlife in the long term, if the products are applied properly and label restrictions are followed. Some products do carry swimming and drinking water restrictions, and should be used with this in mind. As professional applicators, we will always choose the product that is right for each situation, considering not only the results, but also the use and enjoyment of the specific waterbody being treated, and the needs of the community that surrounds it.
Contact the experts at 888-480-LAKE (5253) for all of your lake, pond and fisheries management needs.
Marcus Harris is a Fisheries Biologist with SOLitude Lake Management. Since 1998, SOLitude Lake Management has been committed to providing full service lake and pond management services that improve water quality, preserve natural resources, and reduce our environmental footprint. Services are available throughout the Eastern United States. Fisheries management consulting and aquatic products are available nationwide. Learn more about SOLitude Lake Management and purchase products at www.solitudelakemanagement.com.