Before Completing Your Self-Assessment
This self-assessment is one in a series of voluntary environmental self-assessments in the Farm·A·Syst program. For a more complete picture of activities or conditions on your farm that could affect water quality, review other Farm·A·Syst and Home·A·Syst environmental self-assessments, available at your county Extension office.
This self-assessment on handling and storing pesticides is an important part of the Farm·A·Syst program. This voluntary program helps you evaluate conditions on your farm that could threaten drinking water quality and water quality in streams, rivers, lakes, groundwater, and other sources. The information on this page tells you why you should use pesticides properly for water quality, health, environmental, and legal reasons. Read it carefully before completing this self-assessment.
Your responses to this self-assessment are for YOUR use. Although completing this self-assessment is voluntary, taking a few minutes to respond may help you identify potential areas on your farm that could lead to water quality problems. You may find it useful to involve your spouse and/or children in completing your self-assessment. If you need other help or follow up information, contact your county Extension office.
Why You Should Be Concerned About Pesticides
Pesticides play an important role in agriculture by making possible an abundant, high quality food supply. Some of the same chemicals, however, used to control crop pests also can harm people, livestock, pets, fish, and wildlife. Used properly, pesticides pose little threat to drinking water quality. Used improperly, pesticides may contaminate drinking water (wells) and surface waters such as streams and lakes, and are a direct health risk as well. These potentially harmful impacts are greatly reduced by proper pesticide use, storage, and container disposal, according to the product label. As a pesticide user, it is your legal responsibility to use pesticides according to the product label to reduce these risks. The label is the law.
Although drinking water contamination from pesticides is rare, it is possible under certain conditions. For example, pesticides may enter the ground water that supplies drinking water indirectly, by leaching or moving through the soil, or directly by leaks and spills. Pesticides can enter a drinking water supply by backflow or back-siphonage during pesticide mixing. Pesticides may also enter ground water through a poorly sealed well or an abandoned well. Pesticides applied immediately before a heavy rain may wash into streams or other surface waters and threaten fish and wildlife. For these reasons, do not use pesticides around a drinking water source or other water sources.
If your drinking water comes from a private well, it is your responsibility to make sure the water is safe. While you should not be alarmed simply because pesticides are used on your farm or near your home, you may want to have your water tested if pesticide use is frequent or if there is a pesticide spill, an unexplained illness, or a change in activities that may increase the risk of pesticide or other contamination. Contact your county health department for the names of laboratories that can test your water for contaminants. As a precaution, keep the telephone numbers of your doctor, the South Carolina Regional Poison Control Center, and South Carolina Agromedicine handy in case of accidental poisoning.
For personal protection, always wear required protective clothing and follow required field reentry periods when using pesticides. Keep all pesticides in original containers and out of children's reach.
A Word About Regulations
Farm pesticides are regulated by state and federal laws. You can be held liable for any damage to people, animals, fish, or wildlife resulting from your pesticide use and handling practices. Protect yourself, others, and the environment by using pesticides exactly as directed on the label. Also, triple rinse or pressure rinse empty containers immediately after use and dispose of by recycling or in an approved landfill. For more information on pesticide use regulations, contact the South Carolina Department of Pesticide Regulation or the Department of Entomology's Pesticide Information Program at the address on the back cover. Safely store and transport pesticides and all potential pollutants to reduce the chance of an accident or spill.
Develop an emergency response plan so you will know what to do in case of a spill, fire, or other emergency. For more information on controlling a spill or to report a spill, contact the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). For other information on pesticides, contact your county Extension office.
As a farm operator, you also are required to protect farm workers from pesticide exposure and to keep records of restricted use pesticide applications. This self-assessment focuses on water quality and does not include these additional requirements. For more information on worker protection and pesticide record keeping, contact your county Extension office or the South Carolina Department of Pesticide Regulation. The 1990 Farm Bill contains provisions for record keeping by private applicators, which mandates keeping certain minimal records on each use of restricted use pesticides. However, whether you use a restricted or general use pesticide, keeping good records of each pesticide use is simply a good management practice. Good records help you determine the value, efficiency, and economics of each of the various pesticides and other pest management practices you use to produce a crop or commodity. These help you determine not only the benefits of using certain pesticides, but also gives you a historical record to help pinpoint or identify potential problems arising from pesticide use.
Good records are especially valuable if any pesticide misuse claims are made against you, such as charges that you contaminated an aquifer or water body. For additional information on record keeping, contact your county Extension office or the Department of Pesticide Regulation listed at the back of this publication.
Understanding Your self-assessment
Your drinking water and other water sources are least likely to be contaminated by pesticides if you use all of the low-risk practices in this self-assessment. You may not be able to use all low risk practices initially, but use as many as practical to protect water quality and the environment. As you complete your self-assessment, do not be alarmed if you check several or even many high-risk statements. This does not automatically mean your farm has water quality problems; it does, however, tell you that attention may be needed to avoid problems.
This self-assessment is a set of three statements, each with a low, medium and high ranking. This ranking relates to the level of risk to your drinking water quality or other environmental risks associated with that activity or condition. First, read all statements in each set, then check the one box that best describes conditions on your farm. Remember, this self-assessment is for your information. Your goal is to eventually apply as many low-risk practices as you can.
* Bold type means, in addition to being a high-risk practice, this activity violates South Carolina/Federal water quality, health, or pesticide use laws and regulations.
|Part 1. Pesticide Storage Practices|
|Low Risk||Medium Risk||High Risk|
|____ You reduce the amount of pesticides stored by buying only the amount you expect to use for an application. Additional pesticides are purchased only when needed||____ You usually buy only the product amounts you expect to use for an application, but sometimes buy more in case you might need some later in the season||____ You usually do not check to see what pesticide products are on hand before buying others. You often have products left over after an application or a production season.|
|____ You usually store small amounts of pesticides, or less than 1 gallon or 10 pounds of each pesticide, on your farm.||____ You usually store more than 1 gallon or 10 pounds, but less than 55 gallons or 50 pounds of each pesticide||____ You usually store large amounts of pesticides: more than 55 gallons or 50 pounds of each of several pesticides|
|____ You do not store liquid pesticides at any time (all stored chemicals are dry).||____ You store some liquid and some dry pesticides||____ You store only or mostly liquid pesticides|
|____ All pesticides you store have low potential to leach through the soil (see accompanying list showing leaching potential of pesticides).||____ Most pesticides you store have low or medium leaching potential. Few, if any, have a high leaching potential.||____ Any pesticides you store have a high leaching potential.|
|____ Your pesticide storage area is a roofed building with a concrete floor and curb to contain leaks and spills, is ventilated, and more than 100 feet from a well or surface waters.||____ Your pesticide storage area is roofed with a concrete floor and no curb, or has a wooden floor, and is at least 100 feet from a well or surface waters.||____ Your pesticide storage area is in the open, or has a gravel or dirt floor where spills could contaminate the soil, or is less than 100 feet from a well or surface waters, or pesticides are stored in your well house.|
|____ Your pesticide storage area is fenced, locked, and separated from other activities. No other products are stored with pesticides.||____ Your pesticide storage area is fenced, but sometimes open to activities that could damage containers or spill pesticides.||____ Your pesticide storage area has no fence and is open to theft, vandalism, and children, or is used to store other products or house livestock.|
|____ You separate any unusable, or cancelled pesticides in the pesticide storage area until safe disposal in a recycling or collection program.||____ You keep unusable, suspended, or cancelled pesticides with other pesticides in clearly marked containers.||____ You bury on the farm or dump off the farm property unusable, suspended, or cancelled pesticides stored where convenient, or in unmarked containers.|
|____ You store any pesticides in clearly labeled original containers in good condition. Most, if not all, containers are plastic or metal. You place any containers in poor condition within another liquid proof container.||____ You have some pesticides in deteriorating metal containers, or parts of some labels are hard to read or missing.||____ You store some pesticides in metal containers with holes or weak seams that may leak, or some containers have no label, or any pesticides not in original containers.|
|Part 2. Pesticide Mixing and Application Practices|
|Low Risk||Medium Risk||High Risk|
|____ Before using any pesticide, you always read the label and use the product according to label directions.||____ You usually read pesticide labels before using the product, but sometimes rely on memory of past use of the product or a friend's advice for rates and uses.||____ You usually don't read pesticide labels and don't always know if your use of the product complies with label directions, or pesticides are applied without regard to label directions.|
|____ You personally see to it that others who use pesticides on your farm are well trained and handle all chemicals safely according to label directions.||____ You usually supervise others on your farm who use pesticides, but aren't always around to give directions or advice.||____ Others on your farm apply pesticides with little or no supervision or without your direct knowledge.|
|____You always check weather conditions before applying pesticides to make sure they are not applied when rain or wind may cause pollution or drift problems.||____ You usually check the weather before applying pesticides, but sometimes apply them when weather is less than ideal.||____You usually don't check the weather before applying pesticides and apply them regardless of weather conditions.|
|____You are always careful to mix only the amounts of the pesticide you need to complete the job at hand.||____ You sometimes mix more of a product than you really need to complete the job.||____You often have pesticide mix left over after finishing the job and are left with a disposal problem.|
|____You have a concrete pesticide mixing and loading pad with a curb to hold spills. The pad drains to a sump (pit or reservoir) to help collect and transfer spills, or you mix/load at the application site. Any spills are cleaned up immediately.||____ You have a concrete pesticide mixing and loading pad, but no curb or sump to help collect and transfer pesticides. Most spills are collected.||____You have no pesticide mixing and loading pad. Some spills are cleaned up late or not at all and soak into the ground or drain toward a well or surface waters.|
|____You always mix and load pesticides more than 100 feet and downhill from a well or surface waters. You're very careful to prevent spills.||____ You usually mix and load pesticides at least 100 feet or downhill from a well or surface waters. Spills sometimes happen.||____ You usually mix and load pesticides less than 100 feet or downhill from a well or surface waters. Spills are frequent.|
|____ You use a separate clean water tank (nurse tank) as a water source when mixing pesticides.||____ You use a hydrant away from a well as a water source when mixing pesticides.||____You use a hydrant near a drinking water source, a drinking well itself, or water from a pond or stream as a water source when mixing pesticides.|
|____ You use a closed system to mix and load pesticides (no pesticides are poured by hand; they go directly through a hose from the container to application equipment).||____ You hand pour most pesticides; your sprayer fill port is easy to reach.||____ You hand pour most pesticides; your sprayer fill port is hard to reach.|
|____You inspect wells near pesticide mixing and application areas annually and keep them in good condition. No abandoned wells are on your farm or property.||____ You check wells near pesticide mixing and application areas every two or three years and keep them in good condition. You have properly sealed any abandoned well.||____You seldom or never check wells near pesticide mixing and application areas. You have wells with cracked casings or are poorly sealed, or are abandoned, and are unsealed|
|____You prevent pesticide water from backflowing into a well by installing a check valve, and/or by securing the hose 6 inches above the sprayer tank water line. You fill the tank partially with water before adding pesticide unless the label tells you otherwise.||____ Your pesticide mixing system has no check valve, but you handhold the hose in the sprayer tank above the water line. You usually follow filling instructions on the product label.||____Your pesticide mixing system has no check valve and you handle or leave the hose where it may fall below the water line. You add pesticides before adding water, or don't read the label for filling instructions.|
|____When filling a pesticide spray tank, you stay on the site from start to finish to make sure there are no overflows.||____ You stay in the area when filling a pesticide spray tank and usually check to make sure there are no overflows.||____You start the spray tank filling procedure and leave the area. You check only when you think the tank is filled or nearly filled.|
|____Before the application, you check nozzles, hoses, and pumps for leaks. You recheck during operation to make sure equipment is working properly.||____ You usually check spray equipment before applying pesticides, but don't often check equipment once in operation.||____You usually don't check spray equipment before applying pesticides and usually aren't aware of any problems until there is a leak or breakdown.|
|____You calibrate pesticide application equipment before beginning, recheck it before finishing the job.||____You usually calibrate pesticide application equipment before beginning, but sometimes use the existing setting or don't recheck it before finishing the job.||____You use the same pesticide equipment calibration as the previous year, or don't calibrate equipment at all and do not know for sure how much pesticide is being applied.|
|____ You maintain a buffer area of more than 100 feet between pesticide application areas and a well or surface waters, or follow the product label for any more restrictive buffer area requirements.||____ You maintain some buffer areas between pesticide application areas and a well or surface waters, but usually less than 100 feet.||____ You maintain little or no buffer area between pesticide application areas and a well or surface waters, or don't follow the product label and applied pesticides contaminate water sources of humans; harm animals, fish, or wildlife.|
|____When finishing the last pesticide application, you rinse the sprayer in the field and spray the rinse water on a labeled crop more than 100 feet from a well or surface waters.||____ You rinse the pesticide sprayer at the mixing site, and spray the rinse water on a field turnrow at least 100 feet from a well or surface waters.||____You rinse the pesticide sprayer at the mixing site and dump the rinse water less than 100 feet from a well or surface waters, near your home, or in a field.|
|____ You fill your sprayer half full with water first, turn on the system and check for proper operation and leaks, then add pesticide products and any adjuvants in the order given on the pesticide.||____You put water into your sprayer first, but don't usually turn the system on to check it before adding pesticide products.||____You put pesticides into your sprayer while filling it with water, or put pesticides in first.|
|____You have a good way to keep your water fill line above the top of the spray tank and always maintain an air gap when filling the tank.||____ You usually keep the water fill line above the top of the spray tank.||____ You don't have a good way to keep your water fill line above the top of the spray tank and sometimes the end of the hose is under the surface of the filling tank mixture.|
|____You have backflow protection devices on all hoses (placed nearest the outlet end of the hose) and water sources on your farm and have separate wells or water source for drinking water and for non-drinking water needs.||____ You have backflow protection devices on some hoses or water sources on your farm. You use the same well or water source for drinking water and for non-drinking water needs.||____ You have no backflow protection devices on any hoses or water sources on your farm. You use the same well or water source for drinking water and for non-drinking water needs.|
|____You know the depth to groundwater at your well; where you store pesticides and farm use petroleum products and other chemicals; where you mix and load pesticides; and where you apply pesticides.||____ You know the depth to groundwater at your well, possibly at some other locations on your farm.||____You do not have a good idea as to the depth to groundwater for your farm.|
|____You have a written contingency plan for your farm in the event of a pesticide or chemical spill that you, your family and employees are familiar with. You have spill cleanup equipment located at sites with a high probability of spills (storage and mix load sites).||____ You have given instructions on spill cleanup to those on your farm within the past year. You have at least some spill cleanup equipment at one appropriate site on your farm.||____You have no formal spill cleanup procedure outlined for your farm, and have not given instructions on how to cleanup a pesticide or chemical spill to those on your farm. You have no specific equipment designated or available for immediate use in case of a spill.|
|Part 3. Pesticide Container Disposal|
|Low Risk||Medium Risk||High Risk||____You try to reduce the number of empty pesticide containers that must be disposed by buying products in mini-bulk or returnable containers.||____ You buy some pesticide products in mini-bulk or returnable containers.||____Most or all pesticides you buy are in small containers that require special handling or treatment before disposal.|
|____You triple rinse or pressure rinse empty pesticide containers immediately after use; use the rinse water on a labeled crop; and take rinsed containers to a recycler or approved landfill as soon as practical. Empty pesticide bags go to an approved landfill.||____ You rinse empty pesticide containers and apply the rinse water on uncropped land at least 100 feet from a water source. Empty containers and bags are stored on the farm for long periods of time.||____You rinse containers one or more day(s) after application. You store unrinsed pesticide containers or apply pesticide rinse water less than 100 feet from any water source, or bury rinsed pesticide containers on the farm, or bury or dump unrinsed or partly filled containers or burn empty pesticide bags.|
|Part 4. Record Keeping|
|Low Risk||Medium Risk||High Risk|
|____You always keep detailed records of all general and restricted use pesticide applications, including spot treatments. Your records include at a minimum the name and certification number of the certified applicator making the application; the brand or product name and EPA registration number of the pesticide; the total amount applied; the size and location of the area treated; the crop; commodity; site and weather conditions; the date, calibration rate; and method of equipment calibration used.||____You only keep the minimum records required for restricted use pesticides by the USDA Pesticide Record keeping regulation, which includes: brand name and EPA registration number of the pesticide; total amount applied; crop; commodity and site (including size); dates; and certified applicators name and certification number.||____You do not keep records of any of your pesticide applications.|
Your Farm·A·Syst Score Sheet
This score sheet helps you understand your self-assessment of handling and storing pesticides by letting you compare your low, medium, and high risk activities and conditions. To do your score sheet, use a pocket calculator and follow these steps.
First, count your answers for each level of risk in your self-assessment. Write these numbers in the three spaces in column A of the chart below.
Second, add these numbers to give your total number of answers. Write this number in each of the three spaces in column B. You'll use this same number each time to figure a percentage.
Third, divide your number of answers in each level of risk by your total number of answers. Multiply your answer each time by 100 to convert this number to a percent.
Number of low risk answers ____________÷__________ x 100 = ______________ %
Number of medium risk answers ____________÷__________ x 100 = ______________ %
Number of high risk answers ____________÷__________ x 100 = ______________ %
Using these percentages is an easy way to compare your low-risk, medium-risk, and high-risk activities or conditions. For example, if your percentage in the lower risk column is 50, it means that 50 percent of the activities or conditions in your self-assessment are a medium or high-risk to water quality or the environment.
Although there are no "passing" or "failing" grades on your self-assessment, you should compare your percentage of high risk activities to the environmental scorecard below.
For more information
Consolidated Farm Service Agency
1927 Thurmond Mall, Suite 100
Columbia, SC 292012375
For further information, consult÷
Clemson Extension leaflets
PIP 15 Disposal of Pesticide Containers in SC
PIP 16 Handle Pesticides Safely
PIP 33 Mixing/Loading Site Safety
PIP 35 Reduce Pesticide Drift
EC 670 Agricultural Chemicals Handbook (provided through the local Clemson Cooperative Extension office)
Materials in this packet were modified from information developed by Mississippi State Cooperative Extension program as part of the USDA Farm·A·Syst program.
P. Yates, Water Quality Coordinator,
Clemson Cooperative Extension
Horton, Ph.D., Extension Entomologist,
Clemson Cooperative Extension
G. Bellinger, Ph.D.,
Clemson Cooperative Extension
United States Environmental Protection Agency USDA Cooperative Extension
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control
Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service
Lake and Watershed Association of South Carolina
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
USDA Farm Service Agency
South Carolina Department of Agriculture
South Carolina Soil and Water Conservation Districts
This leaflet provided by÷
Department of Family Medicine
Medical University of South Carolina
171 Ashley Ave.
Charleston, SC 29425
Palmetto Poison Control
College of Pharmacy
University of South Carolina
1-800-922-1117 or (803)765-7359
Department of Pesticide Regulation
257 Poole Agricultural Center
Clemson, SC 296340394
Pesticide Information Program
Department of Entomology
114 Long Hall
Clemson, SC 296340365
Department of Pesticide Regulations (DPR) Field Offices
P.O. Box 21767
Columbia, SC 29221
Greenville, SC 29609
P.O. Box 287
Ninety Six, SC 29666
171 Ashley Avenue
Charleston, SC 29415
County Extension Offices Telephone Numbers, and Addresses
The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, or disability and is an equal opportunity employer. Clemson University Cooperating with U.S. Department of Agriculture, South Carolina Counties, Extension Service, Dan O. Ezell, Interim Director, Clemson, S.C. Issued in Furtherance of Cooperative Extension Work in Agriculture and Home Economics, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914
Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More