As the summer winds down and farmers begin to harvest their crops and put away their equipment, there is one dangerous tool that must be disposed of – pesticides.
“[A]nything dumped down the sewer, septic system or into a stream, will cause harm to the wildlife that surrounds it,” warns earth911, an environmental advocacy organization.
“If you own a farm and choose to dispose of the pesticides by simply dumping the remainder on the ground, you also run a risk of contaminating the aquifer from which you pump your water or the source of drinking water for a nearby community.”
However, farmers in the Peace have resources to help them dispose of these toxins.
Farmers can drop off their unwanted or obsolete pesticides in Fort St. John and Dawson Creek with CleanFARMS, an agricultural waste management organization.
“We provide a cost-free way to dispose of obsolete pesticides nationally,” said Russel Hurst, the director of obsolete collections for the company.
A spokesperson from the Ministry of Agriculture said the ministry is in support of programs like this: “B.C. farmers are recognized for their leadership and commitment to sustainable agriculture, and the B.C. government supports programs and services that help farmers implement responsible pesticide management and disposal practices.”
Hurst said since 1998, the organization has been delivering programs in each province on a three-year rotating cycle. This is the second time they’ve been in the Peace Region.
“The last time we ran the program in the B.C. side of the Peace, we collected a hair over 3,000 kilos of product,” said Hurst. “I suspect it will probably be fairly consistent.”
He noted that it depends on the schedule of farmers and what they’re doing on the farm.
Hurst said this campaign is a great “environmental stewardship program.”
“It basically gets old product that in some cases has been sitting on farms for decades out of potentially hazardous situations,” he explained.
“It’s no longer usable, so what we do is we pick it up, get it off people’s hands and dispose of it in an environmentally responsible way.”
He explained that farmers, in some occasions, have products they cannot use because it freezes, or they change crops, or it simply becomes obsolete.
“From our standpoint, we need to ensure that farmers have an environmentally responsible way to dispose of their pesticides,” he said. “We send all the pesticides for high temperature incineration (in Swan Hills, Alberta).”
He explained that the process was not a “cheap endeavour.”
“We have 50/50 government co-funding from the B.C. Ag. Council (British Columbia Agricultural Council),” said Hurst.
The BCAC component comes from the agriculture environment and wildlife fund of the BC Investment Agriculture Foundation.
“We’re pleased to support and be part of this program as it offers a tremendous service to farmers and plays an important role in protecting the environment for all British Columbians,” said Greg Norton, chair of the BCAC agriculture environment initiatives management committee.
It’s also a stewardship program, which means that pesticide manufacturers pay a “small levee” on each product that is sold into the marketplace.
“It’s a free service for farmers to participate in,” said Hurst. “Basically, we run it every three years so we try to make sure that it’s a relatively predictable program.
“Ultimately, the goal is that (when) farmers have obsolete product, we’ll pick it up.”
Farmers can drop unwanted pesticides off at Viterra in both Fort St. John and Dawson Creek until Aug. 31.