Greenwire has this article today (paywall, I think) and the topic may eventually be covered elsewhere. FWIW, I suggest that retardant may reduce the effects of wildfire in aquatic species. Andy will probably counter that retardant is not effective, but I’ve seen it work very well to slow fires and give firefighters a safer place to build lines.
In a reply to a lawsuit filed by Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, the Forest Service stood by its previously stated position that the agency doesn’t violate the Clean Water Act by applying fire retardant without a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit from EPA, although the spray can be lethal to aquatic wildlife if it gets into streams and rivers.
As an alternative, however, the Forest Service has told FSEEE it plans to seek a “general permit” from EPA, which would allow for the continued application of retardant in multiple settings without the more extensive reviews the organization argues are needed.
General permits can be based on certain categories of activities across wide geographic areas and don’t require the project-by-project reviews involved in individual permits under the NPDES system, according to EPA.
Andy Stahl, FSEEE’s executive director, said the Forest Service’s plan is questionable based on the risks of retardant entering waterways.
“We don’t think the Clean Water Act countenances that level of pollution,” Stahl said. It’s possible, he said, that the court will put the proceedings on hold while the Forest Service seeks a general permit, in which case FSEEE may ask for a halt to retardant applications that could get into waterways.
In its filing, the Forest Service acknowledged that aerial retardant can kill wildlife if it get into streams and rivers, and that the agency used more of it in 2020 and 2021 because of more wildfires in those years.