Public Service and Agriculture

Experts warn of post-storm pesticide danger


People with rubber gloves holding bottles
Use appropriate personal protective equipment such as chemical resistant gloves when handling pesticides.

CLEMSON — The hurricane may be gone, but the danger it left behind can still harm you.

Experts with the Department of Pesticide Regulation, a regulatory agency based at Clemson University, warn that flood waters can cause pesticide containers to leak or spill, contaminating surrounding standing water.

“Knowing what pesticides have leaked is extremely important to coming up with a cleanup strategy,” said Ryan Okey, pesticide program chief. “That is one of the reasons stored pesticides should always be properly labeled, inventoried and stored.”

Homeowners, pesticide applicators and businesses should take steps to protect themselves from inundated pesticide storage sites, Okey said.

“You should wear appropriate personal protective gear to avoid exposure and ensure that skin doesn’t come in contact with contaminated water,” he said.

Monitoring water levels is key to evaluating damage. If pesticide containers have been damaged by minimal flooding, it might be possible to contain and clean-up the pesticide spill. Moderate to major flooding might mean containment and clean-up is impossible and should be reported to hazardous waste representatives with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Follow safety guidelines when handling pesticide spills:

  • Use protective equipment, such as chemical-resistant gloves and aprons, rubber boots, protective eyewear and — if necessary — a respirator.
  • Restore containers to their upright positions and close leaking valves or hoses. Use secondary containers to contain leaking solutions. Pesticide bags that have been broken or soaked must be carefully placed into secondary containers.
  • Contain the spread of chemicals by creating “dams” of absorbent material, such as soil, sand, sawdust, peat moss, rags, paper towels or cat litter. If possible, use the dams to divert contaminated liquids from ponds, streams and storm sewers.
  • Use absorbent materials on pavement and other water-repellent surfaces.
  • Place damaged pesticide containers, contaminated materials and materials used for cleanup into secure plastic bags and dispose of them properly.

The S.C. Department of Agriculture holds periodic pesticide and hazardous materials collection events around the state.

York County will host one such event for household hazardous materials on Saturday, Oct. 6, from 8 a.m. to noon at the York County Public Works facility, 220 Public Works Road (off Highway 5) near the Moss Justice Center in York.

The collection is for households only and is open only to residents of York County; products from businesses will not be accepted. However, collection of unwanted and unused pesticides is open to farmers and residents of any South Carolina county.

Contact the state Department of Agriculture for other pesticide waste-recovery collection dates and times. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control also offers pesticide handling and disposal tips.


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