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50 Ways Farmers Can Protect Their Groundwater
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34. Prevent and Clean Up Chemical Spills

spray tank

An agrichemical spill poses a major risk to both groundwater and surface water supplies. So always mix and load chemicals away from water supplies, including wells, ponds, and streams. Also, avoid sinkholes and abandoned wells that have not been sealed properly.

Never leave a spray tank unattended while it is being filled. If the tank overflows, you may end up with contaminated puddles on the ground or chemicals in the nearest water supply. In addition, maintain application equipment to avoid leaky hose connections and worn spots, which could break and spill chemicals.

a closed-handling system Consider a closed-handling system. Closed systems meter and transfer pesticide products directly from the shipping container to the mixing or application tanks, reducing the risk of a spill. But keep in mind that anti-siphoning devices are still essential with a closed system. If you use an emulsifier or spreader-sticker, add it before the tank is full. These materials tend to create foaming, which could cause the chemicals to overflow onto the ground.
proper authorities If you have an agrichemical spill, despite precautions, report it to the proper authorities. The decision to notify authorities depends on the size of the spill, what chemical was spilled, state regulations, and potential threats to human health or the environment. To determine when you must notify authorities, check with your local emergency response agency.
materials for containing a spill Always keep materials for containing a spill close at hand, and know what to do to contain a spill of the particular chemical you're using.
spilled liquid pesticide If you have spilled a liquid pesticide (as in this picture), cover the spill area completely with a material that absorbs the pesticide: activated charcoal, adsorptive clay, vermiculite, pet litter, sawdust, or specialized pesticide absorbent materials. Sweep or shovel contaminated material into a leak-proof drum. But don't hose down the area. Water will spread the pesticide, creating a wider area of contamination.
remove contaminated material and put it into a leakproof drum In some cases, depending on the pesticide spilled, cover the area with a compound that neutralizes the pesticide. Contact the emergency response agency or manufacturer to find out when to use a neutralizing compound. After removing contaminated material and possibly putting down a neutralizing compound, test the soil. If the soil is still contaminated, continue to remove contaminated material and put it into a leakproof drum. Test the soil again, and dispose of contaminated water or soil according to EPA procedures.
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