Environment Waikato has helped to rid Waipa farm and garden sheds of nearly 6.5 tonnes of nasty agrichemicals, thanks to an overwhelming response from local residents.
The council and the Ministry for the Environment, offered rural Waipa people a chance to dispose of unused and unwanted agrichemicals for free in April and May. About 1300 letters were sent to Waipa landowners before the collection.
A pick up service was offered for about 70 farmers who had large amounts of agrichemicals or leaking drums on their properties, while eight drop-off days ran at the Cambridge and Te Awamutu transfer stations.
Sixty per cent of the chemicals collected were intractable, meaning they will need to be shipped overseas to be disposed of safely.
Environment Waikato was most interested in collecting persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which remain in the environment for long periods of time, and accumulate in plants and animals. DDT is one well known type of POP.
Forty-five kilograms of POPs were dropped at transfer stations and seven kilograms were picked up from farms.
Environment Waikato Environment Committee chair Jane Hennebry said many farmers did not realise they were obliged to stop using POPs and dispose of them safely, following New Zealand’s signing of the Stockholm Convention in 2001.
“It is legal to store POPs, but only if they are in suitable containers stored in secure buildings with moisture control, ventilation and spill containment measures,” Cr Hennebry said.
“Agrichemicals that leak out of old containers can contaminate soil and waterways, posing a risk to human and animal health and the environment.”
Koromatua resident Barry Blyde (photographed) said the collection was a chance to drop off chemicals left behind on his property by a previous owner.
“They’ve been sitting in the shed for years it’s brilliant we can finally get rid of them,” he said.
Ray McGregor, contracted to run the collection for Environment Waikato, said some farmers were reluctant to get rid of POPs such as DDT because they considered it “good stuff”.
“There are sheds all over the country that have still got these types of things lying around in them,” he said.
“But meat and dairy companies and fruit and veggie buyers are becoming more particular about not taking produce from farms if certain chemicals are still on the property. Some companies regularly send inspectors out because overseas markets are demanding more stringent controls.”
Cr Hennebry is encouraging farmers who want advice on disposing of agrichemicals to call Environment Waikato’s contaminated land and waste advisor Michelle Begbie on 0800 800 401.