Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring Safety and Regulatory Updates

Dear FWWS Member,

We have a fair amount of information to share with you regarding safety, regulatory, training and licensing issues. Since there are several topics to cover and the information is somewhat detailed, we will be breaking these topics up into several posts. This first post relates to the impending regulation of SO2 gas.

SO2 Regulation Update

The FWWS Board has been working proactively with the WSDA for over a year in regard to the inevitable regulation of sulfur dioxide used as a fumigant in wineries. We understand that WAWGG and other organizations have also been following this issue. We are presently working with WSDA staff in their pursuit of a grant to develop best management practices for wineries using SO2. Since we have a fair amount of information to share, and, more importantly, so that we don’t “bury the lead”, here are two important points:
  1. What we are talking about here is gaseous sulfur dioxide used in fumigating barrels. All sulfur products except SO2 gas which are used in wine additions as an anti-oxidant or anti-microbial are Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the USDA and are not being considered for further regulation at this time. These other non regulated sulfur products would include Potassium Metabisulfite, Sodium Bisulfite, and Liquid SO2.
  2. There are presently no formulations of gaseous SO2 that are “labeled” for use as a pesticide in Washington State so, at the present time you do not need to do anything specific for regulatory compliance. Obviously you should continue to use all appropriate and common sense worker protections measures such as protective clothing, proper ventilation and respirators (acid/gas or air supplied).

Fumigants such as sulfur dioxide are regulated as pesticides under the FIFRA (Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act). Compliance with this act within Washington State is administered by the Washington State Department of Agriculture. Factors used in considering labeling restrictions for a specific substance include such things as physical properties (i.e. SO2 gas is heavier than air), cumulative risk, effects on drinking water, and human health risks (an obvious concern with SO2 gas).

In 2007 the EPA determined in a Registration Eligibility Decision that regulatory rules for inorganic sulfites, which include sulfur dioxide, sodium bisulfite and potassium metabisulfite, could be re-issued, provided that label rules are followed and that products are properly labeled.

In February of 2010, WSDA issued an “Important Notice to Washington State Wineries and Sulfur Dioxide Use Fact Sheet”. This served as notice that further SO2 regulation was inevitable.

SO2 falls into 2 categories, pesticidal and non-pesticidal.
  • Gassing barrels and corks to sanitize them or to control spoilage organisms is a pesticidal use and will be regulated.
  • Additions to wine not using gaseous SO2 are GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) and are not being considered for further regulation.
Use of SO2 gas requires handlers to be trained in its use. If more than 2 ppm are present in the fumigation area air, use requires full face respirator with an organic vapor cartridge, SO2 impervious gloves, long pants and sleeves. If more than 10 ppm are present or if concentrations are unknown use of an air supplied respirator is required. This applies to all people in the fumigation area. This is all based upon the EPA registration and more specifically the one currently labeled SO2 pesticide available in California. WSDA staff is hopeful that any product labeled for use in WA might not be quite as restrictive regarding the supplied air respirator requirement.

At the present time there are no gaseous SO2 products that have label approval for use in Washington State so the WSDA is not presently enforcing regulation of its use. Inevitably this will change when a label approval is issued. At that time, those using SO2 gas will need to follow appropriate pesticide applicator licensing rules. This licensure will fall into two categories:
  • A Private Applicator’s License will unfortunately be allowed for those using entirely estate fruit only. This license requires one exam. The rules require that the licensee be “available” during application. WSDA enforces this requirement in orchards, for example, by allowing the licensed supervisor to be available by cell phone.
  • A Private Commercial Pesticide Applicator’s License will be required for all others. This requires two exams and includes a fumigation endorsement. The good news is that WSDA staff assures us that the test can often be taken at the same time and is not considerably more difficult. The rules here require that the licensee supervision must be within eye and ear shot of the application.
We have previously discussed with WSDA staff the fact that many wineries are not overly familiar with pesticide regulations and the desirability of WSDA developing best management practices which take into account the practical realities facing Washington wineries, methods, equipment, record keeping etc. WSDA recognizes that we are already a heavily regulated industry and that we all want to be in compliance. WSDA is actively seeking a grant from the specialty crop block grant funds to develop and implement such guidelines. The concept in the grant proposal envisions a three step process to be implemented over roughly three years:
  • Step one: Compiling Information. On site testing. Setting parameters, researching methods and protective equipment and establishing BMPs.
  • Step two: Presentation of BMPs to the industry.
  • Step three: Implementation through technology transfer and technical assistance for individual wineries.
The FWWS Board has submitted a letter supporting this application and we will keep you informed of the progress.

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