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Safety must be top priority with chemicals

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May is Kentucky Water Awareness Month, and as agricultural producers, high- quality water is very important to us.

Agricultural chemicals are also an important part of many farm operations.  Used properly, they help produce an abundant, safe food supply.  If mishandled, however, they can contaminate groundwater, which is a source of drinking water for most residents.

Reduce the chance that improperly used agricultural chemicals might contaminate groundwater by following these steps:

• Read the manufacturer’s label for each chemical you apply and follow the directions for safe use and disposal.  Never pour chemicals together before disposing of them, because it might cause a dangerous reaction.

• Mix and store chemicals at least 50 feet from a well, sinkhole or surface water sources such as ditches, ponds, streams or marshes.  This is because you cannot always detect which way a chemical will flow after a spill.  Plus, subsequent rains can wash chemicals further, or in a different direction, than you think.

• If you spill a pesticide on a hard surface, do not wash down the area, because it might carry the material to other water sources.  Instead, surround the contaminated area with dirt or sprinkle an absorbent material such as sawdust or kitty litter over the spill.  Then, put the absorbent material in a strong plastic bag and dispose of it in a safe manner.

• Always keep the filling hose above the tank water level when filling the sprayer to prevent back-siphoning.  Put a clamp on top of the tank to hold the hose if necessary.  Be sure someone is paying attention to the sprayer the entire time it is being filled.

• To prevent back-siphoning, install back-flow prevention or anti-siphon devices on the fill pipe between the water source and sprayer.  A pump will not always prevent back-siphoning, because a voltage drop or uneven water supply could cause a pump to “cough” chemicals out.

• Triple-rinse or pressure-rinse agricultural chemical containers prior to disposal and empty the rinse water into the spray tank.  Rinse containers as soon as they are emptied to prevent residue from drying out.  Dispose of the containers according to label instructions.

• Store chemicals in a dry, well ventilated, cool location, preferably with an inward-slanting concrete floor.  Keep chemicals in the original, labeled container that is tightly sealed.  Try to keep the containers off the floor by putting them on pallets or shelves.

• Plan your required inventory and chemical purchases for the crop year so you can buy only what is necessary for that year.  Try to use or give away leftover products instead of discarding them.

• Inspect your wells periodically.  Pollutants can enter the well directly from the surface, openings in or beneath the pump base or soil next to the well.  Be sure seals are tight between the pump and pump base, and between the casing and wall of the bore hole. Check the pump for leaks.  Locate and cap old wells.

For more information on maintaining water quality, please contact the Carroll County Cooperative Extension Service at (502) 732-7030.

Dates of interest

May 15: Master Stocker, Session 8 of 8:  Facilities and Handling Equipment, 6:30 p.m., Carroll County Extension Office.

Christin Herbst is the Carroll County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. Call her at (502) 732-7030 or send e-mail to Christin.Herbst@uky.edu.