Ag commissioner’s office cleanses the county of harmful pesticides

Tulare County ag commissioner’s office recognizes some legacies must come to an end by hosting a Pesticide Legacy Disposal Event this October to get rid of outdated pesticides

VISALIA – While a lasting legacy is always something to appreciate, it is not always the case when it comes to pesticides. To prevent pesticides from being improperly disposed of, the Tulare County Agriculture Commissioner will host an event to collect and dispose of legacy pesticides without harming the environment.

The Tulare County Agriculture Commissioner, in partnership with the Kings County Department of Agriculture, is hosting an Agricultural Pesticide Collection and Disposal Event to collect and dispose of agricultural pesticides in Tulare County. The event is targeting pesticides used for agricultural purposes from farmers in Tulare and Kings County, whether they be unwanted or considered legacy chemicals – once allowed for use in the U.S. but are no longer used due to health and environmental risks.

“This is really helping the agriculture industry, but also the environment, to help get these older pesticides, chemicals and products out of the network and disposed of properly,” Christopher Greer, assistant ag commissioner, said. 

This is an amnesty event, so participants do not need to worry about any regulatory actions afterward. Pick up services are not available for this event so participants will need to safely transport the pesticides to the collection site. It is unknown when an event like this will be held again due to the length of time it takes for it to be planned, the amount of staff time required and the time needed to get all necessary resources for it.

According to a press release from the ag commissioner’s office, this event is a good opportunity for growers since disposal events do not occur often in California.

“The last thing anyone wants to see happen is these products be disposed of improperly,” the ag commissioner’s office stated in the press release. “By offering this free service, we’re helping keep these chemicals out of landfills, rivers, canals, storm drains and illegal roadside dumps.”

This will also have a positive impact on the environment, as it lessens the chance of groundwater contamination. It can also help people get rid of containers that might be taking up room in barns, garages and businesses in an environmentally safe way, according to the press release. Additionally, some families might be faced with cleaning out the barns and storage buildings of older relatives who may have passed away, and might come across chemicals that could be 40 or 50 years old.

When this event was held in October 2018, the county collected over 100,000 pounds of pesticides from over 150 growers. The ag commissioner’s office said via press release, they are hopeful this year’s event is just as successful.

The Agricultural Pesticide Collection and Disposal Event will take place on Oct. 5th through 7th, with the location revealed at a later date. Drop-off times start at 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m each day. Registration is required prior to event participation and should have been submitted by Aug. 31, as the registration period is now over.

The ag commissioner’s office also noted that this is not an empty container collection event. The containers brought to the event must have unwanted or legacy pesticide products to be disposed of. Those seeking to dispose of empty and properly cleaned containers can utilize the free Tulare County recycling event on Monday, Sept. 19.

Legacy pesticides

Pesticides that fall under the term “legacy pesticides” consist of chemicals that were once allowed for use in the U.S. but have since been canceled or flat-out banned because of the risks they present to humans, animals and the environment. According to the National Pesticide Information Center website, the legacy these pesticides leave behind is the long-lived persistence they have on the environment. Once they are released, they can take many years to degrade. Some more harmful chemicals found in these older pesticides, like DDT or Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, can take anywhere from two to 15 years to break down even halfway, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. If exposed to it at a high enough volume, DDT can induce tremors, headaches, nausea and seizures in humans.

Additionally, once some of the chemicals from these pesticides are broken down, they have potential to become more persistent or toxic than the chemicals originally used. According to the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) website, pesticides do not disappear when they break down. Instead, new chemicals can be formed that can be either more or less toxic than the original chemical. Some chemicals may not break down at all and will instead move from their original location depending on the chemical and environmental conditions. 

Also according to the NPIC website, pesticides have the potential to move after they are first applied, although where they end up and how long they last there can depend on some factors. Once a pesticide has been released into the environment, it can be broken down by a variety of processes. This includes photolysis, or exposure to sunlight; hydrolysis, which is exposure to water; oxidation and reduction, which is exposure to other chemicals; bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms can break down pesticides through microbial activity; and they can be broken down by the metabolisms of plants and animals. The NPIC website also states that several of the legacy pesticides have been found to form in the tissue of animals and even people.

Some pesticides are not taken up by certain plants easily, but others, like tomatoes and carrots, can absorb them a lot easier through the soil, according to the website. This can happen when pesticides bond with the soil through a process called soil binding. Additionally, if the pesticides reach water, especially shallow groundwater which is easier for them to reach, they can bind tightly to sediment where they settle out into the environment. Weather conditions also play a part in pesticide breakdown, with increasing temperatures, sunlight and rain potentially increasing the process. It also increases the chance of pesticide movement in the environment. 

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