Why Be Concerned?
When used properly, pesticides and fertilizers are effective crop management tools. However, these chemicals can endanger water quality and human health if they are not properly stored and handled. The chemicals can enter directly into the groundwater through wells or sinkholes at the farmstead or flow into surface water. When found in water supplies, pesticides normally are not present in high-enough concentrations to cause acute health effects. Instead, they typically occur at trace levels that may have effects after prolonged exposure.
Taking voluntary action to prevent pesticide contamination of groundwater and surface water can contribute to continued availability of pesticides for responsible use. Following proper label instructions is an important procedure for storing and handling chemicals safely.
The goal of Pennsylvania Farm-A-Syst is to help you protect groundwater and surface water, shared resources which are important to everyone.
How to Rank Groundwater and Surface Water Protection Using This Worksheet
- You can select from a wide range of pesticide and fertilizer storage and handling conditions and management practices that are related to potential groundwater or surface water contamination.
- You can rank your chemical handling, storage, and disposal practices according to how they might affect groundwater or surface water.
- Based on your overall ratings, you can determine which of your conditions or practices are reasonably safe and effective, and which might require modification to better protect groundwater and surface water.
How to Complete the Worksheet
Follow the directions listed below. It should take 15 to 30 minutes to complete the evaluation and determine your ranking. Evaluate each pesticide and fertilizer storage or mixing area on your farmstead for its effect on groundwater and surface water. Space is provided to rank up to three sites on your farmstead. If you have more than three sites, please use another worksheet. If you are unfamiliar with any of the terms used, refer to the glossary provided with this worksheet.
Information derived from Pennsylvania Farm•A•Syst worksheets is intended only to provide general information and recommendations to farmers regarding their own farmstead practices. It is not the intent of this educational program to keep records of individual results. However, they may be shared with others who will help you develop a resource management plan.
Worksheet #2: Pesticide and Fertilizer Storage and Handling Practices
Download the Pesticide and Fertilizer Storage and Handling Practices worksheet . Use a pencil, in case you want to change an answer later. For each feature listed on the left that applies to your farmstead, read across to the right and circle the statement that most closely describes your situation. Leave blank any features that don’t apply to your farmstead. Find the corresponding “rank number” (4,3,2,1) for each description you circled and enter that number in the box under “rank.” If the conditions and practices in any one description do not match your situation exactly, use an in-between score of one-half unit; for example, 2.5 or 3.5. Directions on overall scoring appear at the end of the worksheet. Allow 15 to 30 minutes to complete the worksheet and to deter-mine the level of groundwater and surface water protection you are providing through your pesticide and fertilizer storage and handling practices.
How to Use These Rankings
Step 1. Now that each feature has been ranked, add all these rankings together and put that value in the “Total” box at the end of the worksheet. Transfer that number to the box below.
Step 2. Divide the value in the “Total” box by the number of features ranked.
Step 3. Repeat for each additional site. Calculate the average ranking for all sites combined.
Step 4. Evaluate the overall management practices and site conditions.
- 3.6-4.0 = best management
- 2.6-3.5 = good management
- 1.6-2.5 = fair management
- 1.0-1.5 = poor management
This ranking indicates how your pesticide and fertilizer storage and handling practices as a whole might affect groundwater and surface-water quality. This ranking should serve only as a general guide, not a precise diagnosis. Since it represents an average of many individual rankings, it can mask any individual rankings (such as 1’s and 2’s) that should be of concern.
Step 5. Look over the rankings for individual features of each site:
- Best (4’s): best management according to current guidelines
- Good (3’s): provides reasonable groundwater and surface water protection
- Fair (2’s): inadequate protection in many situations
- Poor (1’s): poses a high risk of polluting groundwater or surface water
Regardless of the overall ranking, any individual rankings of “1” should receive immediate attention. Some problems can be taken care of right away; others could be major or costly projects, requiring careful planning before action is taken.
Step 6. Consider how you might modify your farmstead management practices or site conditions to better protect groundwater and surface water. Contact your local conservation district or Extension office, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, or your agrichemical dealer for ideas, suggestions, or guidance.
Air gap: An air space (open space) between the hose or faucet and the water level in a spray tank. An air gap prevents backflow of a chemical solution into the well or water supply.
Anti-backflow device: A check valve or other mechanical device to prevent the unwanted reverse flow of liquids back down a water supply pipe into a well. Many types of devices are available from most plumbing supply stores. Check with dairy industry field representatives for recommendations for selection.
Backflow: The unwanted reverse flow of liquids in a piping system.
Burning: The controlled use of fire to dispose of paper or cardboard containers. Follow local ordinances carefully so that people or animals are not affected.
Containment: Impermeable floors and curbs around a chemical storage area or mixing/loading area that prevent pesticides or spray solutions from seeping into the ground or running off due to leaks or spills.
Cross-connection: A link or channel between pipes, wells, fixtures, or tanks carrying contaminated water and safe drinking water. If the contaminated water is at a higher pressure, it will enter the safe water system.
Diking: A containment system that surrounds pesticide bulk storage containers and that can hold 110% of the largest capacity of liquid if a spill or leak should occur.
Disposal: Safely removing hazardous materials. Follow directions on the label.
Groundwater: Water beneath the earth’s surface that supplies wells and springs.
Impermeable surface: A surface into which materials will not penetrate.
Rinsate: Waste water from cleaning fertilizer or pesticide tanks. Surface water: Any water source freely existing at ground level such as ponds, lakes, streams, or ditches.
Triple rinse: Partially filling a container with fresh water, shaking, and draining to remove residue. Repeat for a total of three rinses.
Pesticide Leachability Chart
The pesticides listed on this downloadable Pesticide Leachability Chart are identified by brand name, common name and rating for movement by leaching (extra small, small, medium, or large). Identify the pesticides stored on the farmstead from the listing below. Note the “leachability factor” for each pesticide stored (The symbol “—” indicates unknown rating). Assign an overall “leachability factor ranking” (extra small, small, medium, or large), based on which ranking best represents the pesticides stored. Use this ranking to complete the “leachability factor” feature on the Pennsylvania Farm•A•Syst worksheet.
Material for the Pennsylvania Farm-A-Syst package was developed by revising Farm•A•Syst material from the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service, University of Minnesota Extension Service, and the National Farmstead Assessment System Program. The format and style for the Pennsylvania package was based on the Ontario Environmental Farm Plan published by Ontario Farm Environmental Coalition, Ontario, Canada.
For the original version
Partial funding for the development of the Pennsylvania Farm-A-Syst package was provided by the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts through the Chesapeake Bay Program from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
Preparation: Shelly Ogline, Project Assistant, Penn State Extension; Les Lanyon, Associate Professor of Soil Fertility, Penn State, Department of Agronomy, Jerry Martin, Penn State Extension.
Project Coordinators: Barry Frantz, Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts; Les Lanyon, Associate Professor of Soil Fertility, Penn State, Department of Agronomy; Jerry Martin, Penn State Extension.
Advisory Committee: Larry Martick, Adams County Conservation District; Lamonte Garber, Chesapeake Bay Foundation; Lori Sandman, Dairy Network Partnership; Amanda Ritchey, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture; Tom McCarty, Penn State Extension; Susan Fox, Penn State Extension, Bedford County.
Technical Review: Scott Harrison, Penn State; David Bingaman, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture; Patricia Pingel, Pennsylvania Bureau of Land and Water Conservation, John Miele, Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks.
For the revised version
Preparation: Les Lanyon, Penn State Department of Agronomy.
Project Coordinators: Barry Frantz, Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts; Les Lanyon, Penn State Department of Agronomy.
Technical Review: William Hoffman, Penn State; Phil Pitzer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture; Jerry Martin, Penn State Extension; Leon Weber, Rodale Institute.
Support for this publication comes from the Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Special Project No. 91-EHUA-1-0061.
Pennsylvania Farm-A-Syst is a cooperative effort among Penn State Extension, Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.