Introduction to Spill Management

What is a Pesticide spill?

A pesticide spill refers to anytruck on its side unplanned spill or leakage into the environment that occurs during storage, use, transport, or disposal of a pesticide. For example, a spill can be caused by a single container falling off a truck, or a 55 gallon barrel punctured by a forklift. A serious spill could even involve fire and the explosion of leaking containers. The spill risk increases with the size of the operation and the number of persons involved in pesticide handling The most hazardous activities involving pesticides are mixing and loading of concentrates.

The environment can be easily harmed by careless mixing and filling procedures. Areas where pesticides are mixed and equipment is filled have significant potential to contaminate groundwater and surface water if proper precautions are not taken. Carefully choose the pesticide mixing and loading area. It should be outside, away from other people, livestock, and pets. Pesticides should not be mixed in areas where a spill or overflow could get into a water supply. If possible, mix and load pesticides on a concrete pad so that spilled pesticides can be removed without entering the soil. Handling areas frequently must be near a pond or stream bank, as water is needed to fill the sprayer. If this is the case, the area should be graded to slope away from the water. If you must work indoors, or at night, be sure there is adequate ventilation and light to minimize the chance of an accident. Have a supply of clean water and soap available and, if possible, do not work alone.

If you are transporting pesticides, have an emergency plan in place for accidents. Since accidents are often caused by others, you must be ready with a spill action plan.

Education can effectively reduce the risk of a pesticide spill and the harm that it may cause. Below is a short list of items for pesticide spill prevention planning:

  1. Accident management: first aid to injured people, keeping others from exposure and using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
  2. Spill prevention, control and clean up procedures
  3. Know the three “C’s”
    1. Control the spill (minimize the quantity released)
    2. Contain the spill (into as small an areas as possible)
    3. Clean up the spill right away
  4. Spill prevention habits
    1. Methods of handling and storing pesticides
    2. Shop safety and fire procedures
    3. Properly securing pesticides in vehicles and storage areas
    4. Inspection procedures for storage areas

Spill response requires regular education and updating of personnel in prevention, control, and cleanup procedures. Consider regular drills or rehearsals of spill handling procedures to prepare pesticide handlers to respond appropriately to an accident.

Compiled by Ron Gardner
Cornell University Cooperative Extension logo