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Eight tons of pesticides collected in one day

by: COURTESY PHOTO: JENNIFER NELSON - Farmers and others got to unload unused pesticides at a collection event in Cornelius.Nearly 30 farmers, golf course owners and others brought almost eight tons of unused pesticides to a pesticide-collection event in Cornelius in early March, which will help to keep it out of local streams and groundwater supplies.

The event was designed to draw in large amounts of chemicals so they can be safely disposed of at no charge. It was co-hosted by the Tualatin and Clackamas soil and water conservation districts, in partnership with Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Agriculture, among others.

“It does not take a lot of material to cause a major problem,” says Kevin Masterson of DEQ. Some pesticides threaten aquatic life and become a human hazard in less than one part per billion, he says.

Masterson says these events — which have been held off and on for several years across the state — still draw pesticides that are 30 to 40 years old, such as DDT.

“The amount we get has been declining, but it is still common,” he says. “Ten or 15 years ago we got quite a lot.”

Jennifer Nelson of the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District says the list of chemicals brought in at this month’s collection included Cytokinin, Methoxycholor 2E, PT Fungafor, Sulfur 6L, Warrior, Copper Triehanolamine Complex, Prograss and Infiltrex.

Outdated, banned, damaged or contaminated chemicals are welcome at the collection. Later they are transported to a permitted facility for thermal destruction.

The use of DDT has been banned since 1972, when the Environmental Protection Agency pointed out its adverse effects on the environment, wildlife and human health.

Many pesticides, especially older ones such as DDT, are “toxic at such low levels and they stick around so long,” says Masterson, who pointed to the amount of contaminants in the Willamette River as a prime example.

“I think the majority of people want to do the right thing” and dispose of pesticides properly," he says.

The Oregon Legislature provides money to offset the costs of pesticide-collection events, which is especially helpful for small-scale farmers and others who can’t afford large-scale disposal.

“The more we can collect out of barns, the less likely it will end up in our water,” says Masterson, who added that a lot of farmers inherit these old chemicals when they acquire a property or family business. “If everyone made small changes we would see a big improvement.”

Environmental watch groups have already seen a big improvement locally, he says.

Pesticides still end up in streams, but rarely because of intentional dumping.

There are still some decades-old DDT particles in soil, Masterson says, and erosion and runoff carry it to water sources. The same is true with currently used pesticides, for which air drift is also a factor.

“A little from a lot of places adds up to potential issues,” Masterson says.

Residents are urged to further reduce local toxins by reviewing their household products for out-of-use pesticides, herbicides, cleaners, paint and other materials. Those can be recycled through Metro’s free household hazardous waste collection events throughout the year.

For future pesticide collection events, check: www.oregon.gov/oda/Pages/index.aspx.