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Georgia Clean Day Makes Farms, Environment Safer

What do you call a program to help farmers safely dispose of 100 tons of pesticides they can no longer use?

Successful.

"Georgia Clean Day safely eliminates the potential hazard excess pesticides pose on Georgia farms," said University of Georgia scientist Paul Guillebeau. "It actually protects the environment."

Providing options

The program provides an option for farmers who want to comply with pesticide and environmental regulations. In just the past year, farmers have been able to dispose of more than 200,000 pounds of excess pesticides.

Thanks in part to funding by the Georgia legislature, Guillebeau will be able to continue offering this program through 1999 and set additional collection dates around the state.

Guillebeau is the Extension Service pesticide coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. He said farmers may have excess pesticides for any of several reasons.

  • Overbuying. A farmer may find a real bargain on a chemical he plans to use. So he buys a lot of it at the sale price, Guillebeau said. But plans or production recommendations may change, leaving him oversupplied.
  • Accumulation. A farmer may not use an entire package in one season. When the new season arrives, he may choose newer, more effective chemicals. Over the years, these small amounts add up.
  • Discontinuation. After it's bought, the manufacturer may discontinue the product, or release one that's more effective. If that happens, the farmer may choose to use the newer chemical.
  • EPA regulation. New research may show harmful effects. In that case, the Environmental Protection Agency and the manufacturer recall the chemical. But some may remain on the farm.

Safely removing the hazard

Guillebeau said some materials can also become useless, but still toxic, if they freeze or get wet.

Stored safely, excess pesticides pose no environmental threat. But over time, packages may break down and let the still-toxic product spill or leak.

"DDT, once a common agricultural chemical, won't break down for decades," Guillebeau said. "So incineration is the only way to remove it safely."

But hiring a private company to remove and incinerate pesticides is out of financial reach for most farmers.

Program participation

Georgia Clean Day coordinators set a collection day in a county. Area farmers must call in ahead and tell the type and amount of chemicals they need to bring. The materials are collected and carefully stored by type before transportation.

This year, Waste Technologies in Ohio will incinerate the materials on a contract. Guillebeau said they burn the chemicals in a special high- temperature furnace. The extreme heat breaks the chemicals down into their basic, and often harmless, components.

"The company is certified to do this," he said. "They are very careful to 'scrub' the smoke to remove any harmful gases that emerge."

Clean Day partners

The program was created by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, UGA Extension Service, Georgia Farm Bureau and the Georgia Crop Production Alliance. It began in 1995.

Current partners include GDA, UGA Extension, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Division.

Benefits of the program

Without this program, farmers would remain liable for these pesticides. But they couldn't use them. So they would sit in barns, shelters and corners until they escaped their containers and entered the environment.

"I can't think of a better use of tax dollars," Guillebeau said. "This helps farmers do what they know is right with their excess pesticides and provides protection to our soil, water and air."

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