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Pesticide collection equals tons of success

Local environmental agencies encourage proper pesticide disposal


by: COURTESY PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Farmers and others got to unload unused pesticides at a collection event in Cornelius.Almost eight tons of pesticide waste made their way to the Cornelius Wilco store earlier this month, which will work to keep it out of local streams and groundwater supplies.

An agricultural pesticide-collection event March 8 inspired nearly 30 people, including farmers and golf-course owners, to bring in their unused chemicals. Co-hosted by the Tualatin and Clackamas soil and water conservation districts in partnership with Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), among others, the event was designed to draw in large-scale amounts of chemicals to be safely disposed of at no charge.

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

Masterson said 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,” Masterson said. “Ten or 15 years ago we got quite a lot.”

Jennifer Nelson of the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District (TSWCD) said a few 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Outdated, banned, damaged or contaminated chemicals are welcome at the collection, after which they are transported to a permitted facility for thermal destruction.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,” said 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, Masterson said.

Money from Oregon’s Legislature to offset the costs of pesticide-collection events has been a big help, especially 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,” said Masterson, who added that a lot of farmers inherit these old chemicals with property or a family business. “If everyone made small changes we would see a big improvement.”

Environmental watch groups have already seen a big improvement locally, Masterson said.

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

There are still some decades-old DDT particles in soil, he said, 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 said.

TSWCD staff members are encouraging Washington County residents to further reduce local toxins by reviewing their household products for out-of-use pesticides, herbicides, cleaners, paint and other materials that can be recycled through Metro’s free household hazardous waste collection events throughout the year.

Check the ODA’s website for future pesticide collection events.

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