Handling Pesticide Containers after Natural Disasters

Handling Pesticide Containers after Natural Disasters

Spring and summer bring increased chances of storms, floods, and tornadoes in Nebraska. Even when pesticides are stored securely, catastrophic events can damage containers or sweep them away, resulting in spills and runoff that can contaminate the environment. If you have to deal with pesticide containers following a natural disaster, consider these steps:

Wear Personal Protective Equipment

If you can access the pesticide label safely, read it and wear the personal protective equipment specified. If you cannot access the label, before touching anything, wear long pants, long sleeves, shoes and socks, and chemical-resistant gloves. These will help protect you from exposure to any pesticides that may have spilled.  (Product labels are readily available on the Web.)

Assess the Situation

Cleaning up a pesticide spill

Some containers or bags may be torn or damaged, but the pesticide may still be intact. In these cases, transfer the unused pesticide to a similar, undamaged container as soon as possible to prevent it from spilling. Be sure to clearly label the new container with the name of the transferred product.

If there has been a spill or leak, apply the three Cs:

  • Control: Stop the pesticide spill from continuing by setting upright any overturned containers or bags.
  • Contain: Prevent the spilled pesticide from spreading beyond the area where the damaged container is located. Both liquid and granule spills can cause problems. Unless confined to an asteroid crater, a liquid pesticide can move to a non-target location fairly quickly, and rainfall can make stormwater runoff an issue. As for spilled granules, stormwater can carry these to water resources. Use material such as kitty litter to soak up liquid pesticides. Sweep or scoop up granules.
  • Cleanup: Clean up the pesticide according to the product label and secure in a plastic bag or drum.

Call for Assistance

If the pesticide spill is near water or enters water, contact

Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, the state agency responsible for protecting environmental resources, at (402) 471-2186 or (877) 253-2603;

Nebraska Department of Agriculture, the state agency responsible for pesticide regulations, at (402) (402) 471-2351; and

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the state agency that deals with fisheries and other wildlife, at (402) 471-1111.

Emergency Highway Help Line for the Nebraska State Patrol at (800) 525-5555.

Knowing how to handle pesticide containers after a natural disaster (or a regular spill, too) is important for minimizing contamination to the environment from spilled pesticides. By following these guidelines, you can prevent pesticides from contributing to the damage already inflicted by these occurrences.

Erin Bauer, Extension Associate
Clyde Ogg, Extension Educator
Jan Hygnstrom, Project Coordinator
Emilee Dorn, Extension Assistant
Pierce Hansen, Extension Assistant
All in the UNL Pesticide Safety Education Program


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