Everything You Need to Know about How to Dispose of Leftover Lawncare & Landscaping Pesticides, Herbicides, and Fertilizers
Fall is upon us. And if your business or factory is surrounded by lawn & landscaping that you’ve been caring for yourself during spring and summer, then it’s likely you have leftover chemicals lying around that you just can’t dump down the nearest drain.
Do so, and you risk suffering the wrath of a gaggle of state, local, and federal environmental protection agencies, among them the EPA, which is not known for its sense of humor when it comes to groundwater pollution. Their reasons are manifold.
Your drains lead eventually to municipal stormwater pipes and sewage mains. Historically, these are made of concrete. And if you think about joining one concrete pipe to another, there’s gonna be leaks, because the concrete doesn’t provide a smooth glue-friendly surface ala PVC.
Leaks aren’t a big deal when you’re just talking water. But add chemicals to the mix, and then you’ve provided a direct pathway by which they can enter the groundwater—a.k.a. the local drinking supply—and you so don’t want to do that.
Leaks are even a bigger deal in cities that have neglected their civil infrastructure, which is just about all of them except the ones owned by Disney. For example, some legacy pipework in Indianapolis is still fashioned from bricks and hollowed-out trees. (Go Hoosiers!)
Depending on the amount and potency of the pesticide, fertilizer, or herbicide you’re trying to deep-six, sending one or more of them down the drain can wreak havoc on your PVC plumbing, attacking the rubber rings used for joinery, resulting in Leak City. Also, if the service lateral between your plumbing and the municipal sewer oozes chemicals into the ground, the EPA can deem your property as contaminated and in need of environmental cleanup. And what does that entail? Here’s a little background:
Steer clear of CERCLA
The ominously-named Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act grants the EPA power to seek out those parties responsible for any release of ground contaminants—and assure their “cooperation” in the cleanup.
(“Cooperation,” of course, is meant here like the Corleone family might use the word.)
Liability is imposed regardless of fault, and it’s also “joint and several.” This menacing legalese means that liability for contaminants can be imposed regardless of your relative contribution—including merely purchasing a property.
Your site will need to be assessed to determine exactly what kind of pollution you’re charged with. This is done in either of two ways. If you’re unlucky, maybe both:
? Ex-situ methods involve extracting the contaminated soil and groundwater and then hauling the muck offsite to an appropriate treatment facility. As you’re legally responsible for all hazardous waste from waste cradle-to-grave, you’ll want to make sure that the
company you hire is also up-to-snuff on DOE hazmat transportation requirements.
? In-situ methods treat the soil and groundwater without removal. They involve such technologies as “soil vapor or stem-enhanced extraction,” “chemical oxidation,” “bio-remediation phytoremediation,” steam-enhanced extraction,” “thermal desorption,” and other chem-lab esoterica.
It’s at this point that we’re wont to advise: get expert advice.
Some notes specific to pesticides
Although this might be stating the obvious, you would do well to buy less rather than more pesticides, to begin with. It’s easy to buy more down the road. It’s hard to throw it away with impunity.
Think about dilution.
With smaller amounts of leftover pesticide, one way to legally get rid of the stuff is diluting the heck out of it with water, and then spreading it on the area you bought it for in the first place. That way, you get some use out of it rather than just throwing it away.
Of course, you can overapply an insecticide as a thin gruel just as well as you can in one big, sloppy, soup. It just takes longer. So proceed with caution and due parsimony. Also, be particularly careful with leftover pesticide concentrates. This stuff ain’t orange juice, after all.
Triple-rinse pesticide containers
When tossing “empty” pesticide containers, a significant amount of residue can remain inside. Be sure to triple-rinse them. As to how…
Use the first-rinse water for a diluted application, as explained above. Then rinse two more times. But be advised: rinse-water that’s residual to cleaning sprayers, applicators, containers, and so forth can be contaminated enough to cause you woe.
Don’t take chances.
Remember that one of the oft-forgotten imperatives of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is that you’re responsible for any hazardous waste you “generate” from “cradle-to-grave.” This includes its generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal. Thereby, you’re not only accountable for hazardous waste from the moment it’s generated; you’re also legally responsible for its safe transportation to wherever it will be ultimately processed or disposed of.
If you have larger amounts of lawn- or landscape-care pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides to dispose of, be sure to secure properly licensed and experienced hazardous waste management experts to ensure that you go about doing so legally and safely.
The legal, financial, and reputational liabilities of not doing so are formidable. Contact us today. And thank-you for reading our blog!