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 While items being discarded from the shop, such as old or used oil and outdated chemicals may no longer be useful to the farmer, special care should be taken to properly dispose of them.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 the University of Missouri Extension, improperly stored and disposed of items can be potentially dangerous to animals and humans.
Pesticides, herbicides and waste petroleum products like oil, hydraulic fluid, gasoline and diesel fuel can pollute groundwater.
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. Used antifreeze poses a poisoning risk to animals that may try to drink it because of its sweet taste. Ingestion can cause respiratory and cardiac failure, kidney damage and brain damage.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that a mixing or handling area be established where sprayers are filled or chemicals are mixed to help prevent ground contamination.
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, according to MU Extension.
Pesticide containers should not be used to hold other materials, especially food or beverages, in order to prevent accidental poisonings. Oil barrels and jugs may be re-used to hold waste oil for recycling, but should not be re-used for other purposes because of residual chemicals that may be embedded in the plastics.
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.
There are options for farmers when it comes to eliminating potentially harmful situations through recycling opportunities.
Some automotive centers will recycle small quantities, up to 5 gallons, of oil and hydraulic fluid.
For antifreeze disposal, the major components can be broken down by organisms in a municipal sewage treatment plant, but antifreeze should not poured into storm sewers, sinkholes or abandoned wells, where they will directly pollute the groundwater. Small spills can be absorbed with kitty litter or sawdust and disposed of in regular trash.
Plastic pesticide containers can be recycled. 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.
The development a protocol for handling, storing and use of all farm chemicals is recommended. All employees and/or family members who handle the products should follow this protocol. University Extension centers can help develop those protocols 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.