Naked City

Suit to save the salamander

The health and habitat of Austin's canary in the coal mine – the Barton Springs salamander – are in jeopardy because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency isn't doing its job, the Save Our Springs Alliance charged Monday in a federal lawsuit filed in Washington.

The group, joined by the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity, is trying to force the EPA to determine whether pesticides found in Barton Springs are threatening the health of the federally protected salamander. The suit claims that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued warnings to the EPA about the potential risks associated with several pesticides found in Barton Springs, and has tried to consult with the agency about the impact of the toxins, particularly atrazine, an herbicide used to kill weeds. In addition, the lawsuit cites a U.S. Geological Survey report in 2000 that detected a number of other pesticides, including deethylatrazine and diazinon, which also pose a threat to human health.

"Once again, an agency charged with enforcing the law refuses to do so, forcing us to sue," SOS deputy director Brad Rockwell said. Brian Litmans, an attorney representing the two groups, said in a statement: "EPA is ignoring the overwhelming science regarding impacts of pesticides to amphibians. It obstinately refuses to comply with the Endangered Species Act to ensure that the use of pesticides do not jeopardize the survival of listed species."

The EPA regulates the use of pesticides in the U.S. and is responsible for ensuring that the toxins don't jeopardize endangered species. The lawsuit charges that the agency under the Bush Administration is reluctant to address how authorized pesticide use in the U.S. adversely affects endangered species.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Edwards Aquifer, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Act, Save Our Springs Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Brad Rockwell, Brian Litmans, EPA, atrazine, deethylatrazine, diazinon

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