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Jan-03-2008 01:06printcomments

First Year of Pesticide Use Reporting Drawing to a Close

Oregon's Pesticide Use Reporting System is unique in the United States, no other state or federal agency has this level of reporting taking place.

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(SALEM, Ore.) - The first year of Oregon's landmark Pesticide Use Reporting System, "PURS" has drawn to a close, but pesticide users have until the end of the month to report their 2007 usage. Meanwhile, it will most likely be July 2008 before the general public sees a summarized report on pesticide use in Oregon.

Although detailed information is being electronically collected, the law that created PURS protects confidentiality of individual users and requires that the data be summarized in the statewide report prepared by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

"PURS gives us an annual snapshot of pesticide use and, over several years, will allow us to identify trends in the use of pesticides," says ODA Deputy Director Lisa Hanson.

All 2007 pesticide applications must be reported online through PURS no later than January 31st 2008. The requirement to report applies to anyone using a registered pesticide product in the course of business, or for a government entity, or in a public place.

The electronic reporting system allows pesticide users to register and submit information through a Web site to a high security database. PURS will provide information on what pesticides are being used in Oregon, in what quantities, and generally where they are being applied. Information on use of pesticides by homeowners is being collected through a separate survey.

The collection of data, both from PURS and the household use surveys, will result in a yearly statewide report issued by ODA. The format of these reports is still being developed. The Oregon Legislature, through statutes, has imposed restrictions on use of the information submitted to PURS.

"There are certain limitations regarding the information as directed by the legislature," says Chris Kirby, administrator of ODA's Pesticides Division. "The locations of pesticide applications are required to be by zip code in urban areas and by water basin in rural areas, including agricultural and forestry sites. The annual report will be available to the public, but again, it will summarize the information."

Citizens should not expect PURS to provide very specific information about pesticides used in their neighborhood or other finely detailed information. Protecting the identities of individual users is required by law.

Specific information about reported pesticide use may be made available to valid researchers who are subject to confidentiality requirements.

Administrative rules state that access to the reported information will be given to "...a health or environmental researcher acting in an official capacity from an accredited university or accepted research institute." Researchers are subject to civil penalties if confidentiality is breached.

Nonetheless, the annual report to be issued in July will be valuable.

"People need to understand that Oregon's Pesticide Use Reporting System is unique in the United States," says Kirby. "No other state or federal agency has this level of reporting taking place. That in itself is a major accomplishment."

ODA has already heard from some people who have misplaced expectations of PURS.

"This is not a system whereby someone can go online and ask what pesticides are being used next door or near them," says Kirby. "It is not a real time system. Those subject to PURS do not have to report their usage until the end of January the following year. PURS is not going to give the very detailed information that some people would like to see. Again, that's the way the legislature set up the system."

Oregon lawmakers placed a sunset date of December 31st 2009 for PURS. It is expected that the 2009 legislative session will address the issue and decide whether to remove the sunset and make PURS permanent, hold to the original sunset date, or do something in between. Information from the annual report for 2007 could go a long way in demonstrating the value of PURS.

While the annual summarized report is still months away, the actual deadline for reporting 2007 use is just weeks away. ODA has been recommending throughout this past year that users file their reports in a timely manner. But there is no doubt that many users have been putting it off– something that can be attributed more to human nature than any wholesale protest of the PURS requirements.

"There is no doubt many people are waiting until these last few weeks," says ODA pesticide use specialist Sunny Jones. "As we developed the electronic system, we tested the load and expect to be able to handle the last minute crunch."

ODA has dedicated staff to help pesticide users complete their 2007 reports. PURS staff members are available by telephone Monday through Friday between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM at (503) 986-6472 to help with any questions or problems experienced by pesticide users who need to report. Messages can also be left at the same number after hours and will be returned as soon as possible the next business day. Questions can also be e-mailed to .

"The biggest lesson we have learned during the first year of reporting is that people need to contact ODA right away if they are having any trouble with the system," says Jones. "By the time we hear from some users, they are at the end of their rope. We could have helped them much earlier and avoid the frustration."

Generally, the first year of PURS has gone relatively well. What ends up in the database and how it is reflected in the annual report will help determine the system's ultimate value.

PURS is available at . Additional information about the system and its requirements are also available on the Web site.

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