After the Flood: Pesticide Storage Facilities on the Farm
When the flood waters subside around a farm, one area for careful evaluation is the pesticide storage area. If this area was underwater, there could be damaged containers and spilled product, resulting in a potentially hazardous situation. This should be dealt with in much the same way as any spill. Your personal safety and that of anyone helping you should be the first consideration. The following are the standard guidelines for handling spills:
- Control the Spill: Stop the spill as quickly as possible by restoring the container to its upright position, closing a leaking valve or hose, or putting a secondary container in place to catch the leaking solution. Bags that are broken or soaked through need to be carefully placed in a secondary container, such as a drum or heavy plastic bags.
Of course, appropriate personal safety equipment should be used, such as chemical resistant gloves, rubber boots, a chemical resistant apron, and protective eyewear. A respirator may be necessary for some chemicals. If you know the product or products damaged, use the personal protection required on those labels.
- Call Your Retailer: Get advice quickly from your agricultural chemical retailer or manufacturer on cleanup of specific chemicals. They can also provide you with special safety advice and other information.
- Contain the Spread: When the leak has been stopped, contain the spread of the spill by creating dams of absorbent material in the path of the spilled liquid. It may be most important to first divert a spill away from a nearby pond, stream or storm sewer before attempting to stop the spill or leak. This is a judgment call that only you can make.
- Begin Cleanup Promptly: As soon as the situation has been stabilized, begin cleaning it up. Quick response to a spill is not only required in many states, but will prevent the chemical from leaching or washing away in a rainstorm. If possible, stand upwind or use a fan for ventilation when inside a storage building.
- Use Absorbent Materials: On pavement or concrete, use absorbent materials to capture the spilled liquids. They can then be shoveled or swept into disposal containers. Non-chlorinated pet litter is an excellent, inexpensive absorbent material to keep on hand for such purposes. Large spills may require commercially available pillows of highly absorbent materials.
- Properly Dispose of the Damaged or Absorbent Materials: Contact your County Cooperative Extension Service office to find out where to dispose of the damaged pesticides. NCDACS also has a cost-free assistance program that you can contact for more information on safe, proper, and legal disposal. The Pesticide Disposal Assistance Program (PDAP) is a non-regulatory part of the Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division and can be contacted at 919-733-3556 or at www.ncagr.gov/PDAP. Absorbent clean-up materials can also be handled through this program as a special exception due to the flooding. In preparation for disposal, cover and secure the material and keep from weather and rising water.Do not ‘pile’ or consolidate unlike materials into one container. Contact the PDAP for assistance.
- Report the Spill or Release of the Pesticide: Notify the proper authorities in your area such as the local emergency planning office, NCDACS, and North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
If there is standing water in your pesticide storage facility, assume it is hazardous until you can check all pesticide containers for leaks or breakage. Do not allow any skin contact with this water. If there is no evidence of pesticide leakage into the water, it can be safely pumped out. However, if pesticides have mixed with this water, the water will have to be pumped to a storage tank for land application. Land application has to be at or below label rates, so first the amount of product spillage will have to be estimated. The water should be filtered before it enters the spray tank to avoid nozzle clogging.
Be sure to wear your personal protection equipment during all cleanup operations. If possible, have someone remain nearby checking on you regularly in case you are injured or overcome during cleanup.
You may need to obtain further information or assistance before cleaning up the pesticide storage area. In addition to your retail dealer and the manufacturers, the following is a list of numbers where information may be obtained, and the incident should be reported to NCDACS and NCDENR:
- NCDACS Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division: 919-733-3556
- NCDENR Environmental Emergency: 800-858-0368
- Chemtrec Emergency Hotline: 800-424-9300
- EPA Pesticide Management & Disposal: 703-305-7385
- EPA Hazardous Waste Hotline: 800-424-9346
- EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline: 800-426-4791
Information from the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service
Updated: August 26, 2011