BILLINGS, Mont. — An environmental group has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service for allegedly polluting waterways by dropping large volumes of fire retardant from aircraft to fight wildfires.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Montana by Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics of Eugene Oregon.
“It’s simply too toxic at the levels used fighting fires,” said Andy Stahl, the group’s executive director told the Associated Press.
Government data released earlier this year found more than 760,000 gallons of fire retardant were dropped directly onto streams and other waterways between 2012 and 2019.
The main ingredients in fire retardant are inorganic fertilizers and salts that can be toxic to some fish, frogs, crustaceans and other aquatic species.
The AP reports that according to a 2011 government decision, fire retardant may only be applied in designated “avoidance areas.” Those reportedly are areas where human life or public safety is threatened and retardant could help. That’s part of an effort in recent years to avoid polluting streams by imposing buffer zones around waterways.
The Associated Press reports that the lawsuit is requesting a judge declare the pollution illegal.
A Forest Service spokesperson said it was agency typically does not comment on active litigation, according to AP.