EUGENE, Ore. – Hauling bulging sacks and rusting containers, more than 50 farmers turned in old pesticides, fertilizers, and solvents in Lane County's first agricultural chemical collection program last November. Now organizers are set to repeat the success in an upcoming collection effort, sponsored by the Oregon State University Extension Service and other local agencies.
Farmers in the McKenzie River and Middle Fork Willamette watersheds brought in more than 17,000 pounds of agricultural chemicals, according to one of the organizers, Ross Penhallegon, a horticulturalist with the OSU Extension Service in Lane County.
“It was truly amazing to see all the old chemicals that came in,” said Penhallegon. “Obsolete pesticides such as DDT, aldrin and chlordane, sacks of caked fertilizer, waste oil, solvents with no label…some of the old pesticides, especially those such as DDT, were taken off the market decades ago.”
Another collection event is scheduled in early February. The goal of this agricultural collection program is to remove potential groundwater contaminants out of the area and dispose of them properly at hazardous disposal sites, explained Penhallegon.
Participating growers were under an amnesty of sorts. Growers were invited to bring in and safely dispose of the hazardous waste from their farms, no questions asked and no disposal fees charged, on several days this past November. Normally disposing of hazardous waste from farms is prohibitively expensive for many growers.
“Until the collection event, most farmers had few options for disposing of unwanted chemicals, since many of the chemicals had become illegal to use,” Penhallegon said. The collection of the chemicals was handled by trained personnel and shipped to a hazardous waste disposal site near Kent, Wash.
The southern Willamette Valley is heavily dependent on well water for drinking and agriculture and is especially vulnerable to groundwater contamination, especially from nitrogen. Scientists from the OSU Extension Service, the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, along with other agencies and citizen volunteers have worked for more than 15 years to closely manage and protect the area’s aquifers.
Another similar event has been slated for Feb. 7-9 and Feb. 21 for commercial growers at the Glenwood Collection Center in Springfield. Farmers who would like to participate in this program need to complete a farm chemical survey and submit it to OSU Extension Service Lane County by Jan. 26.
The Eugene Water and Electric Board, Springfield Utility Board, Lane County Waste Management, the South Willamette Valley Groundwater Management Program and other local and state entities also sponsor the chemical collection program.
To learn more about the program contact:
• Amy Chinitz at 541-744-3745, if you live in the Middle Fork Watershed (i.e., south Springfield, Pleasant Hill, Jasper, Fall Creek, Lowell, Dexter, and Oakridge)
• Karl Morgenstern at 541-341-8552 or Nancy Toth at 541-344-6311, ext. 3318, if you live in the McKenzie Watershed (i.e., Leaburg, Marcola, Walterville, Vida, etc.)
• Ross Penhallegon at 541-682-4243 or Audrey Eldridge at 541-776-6010, ext. 223, if you live in the Upper Willamette (i.e., Eugene, Cheshire, Coburg, Junction City, Veneta, etc.)
For further information or to print off the survey form, visit the OSU Extension Service Lane County website at: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/lane/horticulture/index.php.