As warmer temperatures begin to set in across the Ozarks, spring chores begin to be on the top of producers’ “to-do lists.”
Those chores may include a little spring-cleaning of barns and/or shops. While items being discarded, such as old or used oil and outdated chemicals may no longer be useful to the farmer, special care should be taken to properly dispose of them.
According to Bob Schultheis, natural resource engineering specialist with the University of Missouri Extension Center in Webster County, Mo., improperly stored and disposed items can be potentially dangerous to animals and humans.
“Pesticides (which includes herbicides) and waste petroleum products like oil, hydraulic fluid, gasoline and diesel fuel can pollute groundwater,” Schultheis told Ozarks Farm & Neighbor. “Humans and animals drinking this water can suffer illness or toxic reactions. It only take one gallon of waste oil to contaminate one million gallons of water and form an 8-acre oil slick on surface waters. Used motor oil can also present a threat to health through skin contact, absorption, inhalation or ingestion. The main threat is due to cumulative exposure to the heavy metals picked up from engine wear. Vapors from fuel that has leaked underground can collect in basements, sumps or other underground structures and could explode.”
He added selling property with chemicals and oils dumped on it may be difficult.
“Landowners, under the 1972 Federal Clean Water Law, can be prosecuted for pollutants that leave their property either overland or underground,” Schultheis said.
Both current and outdated products can pose a hazard, depending on how they are stored. Freezing weather and high temperatures can alter pesticides and paints and make them unusable or hazardous due to separation, crystallization, clumping, or exploding the container.
Extra hazards can be created if the product is stored in a metal container that rusts and leaks. Chemicals should not be stored in the well house to prevent freezing because of the risk of drinking water contamination down the well.

Schultheis said containers used to store fuel and chemicals can be harmful if not disposed of properly.
“Paper and plastic pesticide containers should not be burned because of the toxic residue that can be dispersed into the air, even if the container has been properly rinsed,” he said. “Missouri law prohibits burning such containers, even on your own property.”
Schultheis cautioned against reusing pesticide containers to hold other materials, especially food or beverages, in order to prevent accidental poisonings. Oil barrels and jugs, he said, may be re-used to hold waste oil for recycling. The large barrels and plastic jugs should not be re-used for other purposes, because of residual chemicals that may be embedded in the plastics.

There are options for farmers when it comes to eliminating potentially harmful situations through recycling opportunities.
Schultheis explained, that some automotive centers, such as Walmart, will recycle small quantities, up to 5 gallons, of oil and hydraulic fluid.
“Automotive repair shops may also accept waste oil. Waste oil haulers can accept larger quantities,” Schultheis said. “Some county road departments and farmers save energy heating buildings by using special heaters designed to burn waste oil. It is illegal in Missouri to spread waste oil on gravel roads for dust control.”
For antifreeze disposal, Schultheis said the major components of antifreeze can be broken down by organisms in a municipal sewage treatment plant.
“If your home is connected to a municipal sewer system, flush the antifreeze down the drain with plenty of water,” he explained. “If your home is on a septic tank system, ask a friend whose home is hooked up to a municipal sewer system to dispose of the used antifreeze for you. Or ask your local automotive repair shop if they will accept used antifreeze for proper disposal. Do not pour antifreeze into storm sewers, sinkholes or abandoned wells where they will directly pollute the groundwater. Small spills of antifreeze can be absorbed with kitty litter or sawdust and disposed of in your regular trash.”
Plastic pesticide containers can be recycled, Schultheis said. If a recycling option is not available, the containers may be disposed of as regular solid waste in the trash after they have been triple-rinsed, the caps removed, and a slit cut into the containers. “This allows the collection/disposal company to easily verify the containers are empty and prevents their future re-use,” he explained.
Some communities across the Ozarks have hazardous waste collection centers. For example, residents of Greene, Christian, Dallas, Polk and Webster counties have access to the Household Hazardous Waste Collection Center in Springfield, Mo., where they, with an appointment, can drop unwanted pesticides, solvents, oil-based paints and other items.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources periodically holds collection days around the state to accept unwanted waste pesticides. Missouri residents can go to for more details.

Schultheis recommended the development a protocol for handling, storing and use of all farm chemicals. All employees and/or family members who handle the products should follow this protocol. He added that are University Extensision centers can help develop those procals and assist landowners assess risk of various practices on the farm, prioritize those risks and offer corrective actions.
Training is also through Extension for those seeking a license to purchase restricted-use pesticides.


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