About 94,000 pounds of old agricultural chemicals stored by farmers in Tulare County, Calif. were collected in an amnesty program aimed at removing the dangerous products that growers no longer use. Some of the materials have long-since been banned by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Dubbed a “legacy pesticide disposal event,” the Tulare County Department of Agriculture obtained grants from the EPA and California Department of Pesticide Regulation to give growers an opportunity to have the products removed without cost or regulatory consequences. For growers this was a golden opportunity to have materials that were either unknown or known to be banned years ago safely removed.
The Tulare County Department of Agriculture worked with growers, grower groups and others for two years to put the program together and to give farmers notice of the amnesty. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) was also involved as farmers were asked to deliver materials to a collection point in Tulare County.
County agricultural inspectors visited about 150 farmers electing to participate in the amnesty. The inspectors measured the materials to be disposed of, recorded the materials (if known), the type of shipping containers they would be transported in, and provided growers with a manifest of materials, which is required by law when transporting hazardous materials.
According to information provided by the county department of agriculture, some growers had as little as about 140 pounds of materials to dispose of while others had several tons to safely discard.
Deputy Agriculture Commissioner Marianna Gentert said the county worked with CHP officials to allow growers to transport the materials with a manifest, but without requiring other Department of Transportation regulations, such as hazardous materials placards. Those manifests then became part of the paperwork used to legally ship the materials by commercial carrier.
Gentert said the county also provided growers with thick plastic bags for growers to place materials in to prevent leakage during transportation. This was critical as some of the materials were either so old that they were not stored in approved EPA containers or otherwise in need of safeguarding while being transported.
“The growers who came in here today took all our precautions seriously,” Gentert said. “They all had their manifests and some even brought their stored materials palletized in shrink-wrapped containers.”
Tulare County contracted with Clean Harbors, a Sacramento-based hazardous materials disposal company to safely remove the materials from the collection point. Once segregated and property stowed, the company hauled the materials to locations in Utah or Nevada for proper disposal.
While logistically much needed to take place ahead of the event, Gentert said the event itself went well as growers were given appointment times in which to deliver their hazardous materials. Growers were preregistered by the county during site visits after being invited to participate in the program.
Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner Marilyn Wright said growers were contacted over a two-year period through various means to inform them of the event. Still, some growers contacted her office to say they hadn’t heard about it and wanted to get in on the event at the last minute. Wright said all growers with pesticide permits were contacted by the county.
Tulare County last did one of these events about 15 years ago, according to Gentert. Others in the future may be planned as funding become available. A $80,000 grant from the US EPA and a $39,000 grant from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation was used to partially fund the $369,000 program. The balance came from the county Ag department budget.
Similar programs were held recently in California's Imperial and Stanislaus counties.