Reducing the Risk of Pesticides in Our Streams

The topic of pesticides in local streams is rising to the surface! Folks in the conservation community anticipate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will list several Clackamas County streams as water quality impaired due to pesticide levels. Pesticides in surface water are worrisome, but we have been working to address this issue. There are many actions taking place to help improve water quality conditions, and you can play a part in that effort.

One sure way to reduce the risk of an accidental pesticide spill is to remove the pesticide from the watershed. If it’s not there, it can’t enter our water! That was the main goal of organized pesticide collections held regionally over the past six years. We partnered with state and local organizations and agencies to sponsor free, anonymous pesticide collection and disposal events. While our focus was mainly on agricultural producers, participants included golf courses, seed dealers, and pesticide dealers.

We expected the amount of pesticides collected would be large at first and then decline, but that is not what happened. According to a fact sheet recently released by Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the trend is increasing for collections in Clackamas and Marion counties. Some combination of increasing awareness by citizens, more widespread knowledge of these collection events, increased trust that the events are truly anonymous, and the lack of cost to participants probably contribute to the increasing amount of pesticides collected.

The fact sheet reported that a survey of participants asked the reason for disposing of the chemicals. Top answers were:

  •  the pesticide was unknown, contaminated or had expired
  •  the pesticide was no longer used, or they switched to alternative pest management strategies
  •  the pesticide was banned or cancelled

One third of participants had been involved in an earlier collection event, indicating the satisfaction of participants with the program. There was an overall feeling of gratitude for the opportunity to dispose of old, used chemical waste with no fee and no hassle.

Conclusions drawn from the information collected include the continued need for events of this type. The dollar amount for disposal is high, but the benefit of safely removing pesticide from the watershed is well worth the cost.

Partners in the local events were Clackamas River Water Providers, Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District, Marion Soil and Water Conservation District, Clackamas River Basin Council, Molalla River Watch, OSU Extension Service, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Oregon Department of Agriculture. Funding came from an EPA 319 nonpoint source program grant as well as contributions from the Clackamas River Water Providers, Clackamas SWCD, Marion SWCD and the City of Estacada.

If you have old, unused pesticide on your property, contact Metro Recycling Information at 503-234-3000 to learn how and where to dispose of it safely. If you must store it, the EPA offers guidance on safe storage of pesticide.

Read the 2011 Clackamas and Marion Pesticide Round-up Events Fact Sheet from Oregon DEQ for more information.

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