Farmers and business owners will have an opportunity to dump unwanted or unusable chemicals and pesticides in September if they sign up soon.
The CleanSweepNY program, sponsored by the State Department of Environmental Conservation, is taking reservations so that such chemicals don’t permeate waste streams, landfills or ground- and surface-water resources.
Those who register by Friday, September 19, will be assigned a date and time to drop off their chemicals. Those with unknown materials and compressed gas cylinders have until Friday, September 5, to register. The program is free for those who hand over pesticides, but a small fee is charged for other types of chemical waste.
Not only can farmers and business owners like landscape contractors and other pesticide applicators apply, but people involved with cemeteries, golf courses and marinas, as well as retailers, can dispose of their chemical waste, too.
According to Aphrodite Montalvo, a spokeswoman for the DEC, the point is to provide a safe disposal of potentially dangerous chemicals that could otherwise enter Long Island’s sole source aquifer through accident.
The dropoff points in Suffolk County will be at the Riverhead and Melville State Department of Transportation highway yards.
“Prior to the initiation of the CleanSweepNY program, DEC compliance staff would come across old and unusable pesticides, including banned chemicals such as DDT and elemental mercury that oftentimes had been forgotten, inherited or purposely stored due to high disposal costs,” she said this week.
The program was initiated in 2002 and there have since been 16 events held across the state. To date, the program has collected and disposed of more than 1.25 million pounds of chemicals, including more than 817 pounds of elemental mercury and more than 4,200 plastic pesticide containers.
The event is held in different areas of the state and the last time CleanSweepNY was held on Long Island was 2008. Ms. Montalvo said 132,213 pounds of pesticides and other chemicals were collected from Suffolk and Nassau counties. She added that nothing out of the ordinary was collected and it was in line with other chemicals collected in other regions, including outlawed pesticides like DDT, chlordane and mercury.
Once the chemicals are collected from designated spots, they’re loaded onto trucks, which have DEC and Department of Transportation certifications, and hauled to disposal facilities out of state. Ms. Montalvo said that in previous events, the waste was taken to facilities in Arkansas and Ohio.
John White of the Green Thumb organic farm in Water Mill, who comes from a long line of potato farmers in Sagaponack, said he has taken advantage of the CleanSweepNY in the past to get rid of old chemicals he hadn’t used in years.
“I got rid of 99 percent of everything—I did have DDT, lead and arsenic,” he said. “You just get really busy, and stuff slides between the cracks.”
He said the idea of a disposal program is “huge” because it helps save the environment and Long Island’s aquifer.
“It’s no different than getting rid of prescription medications through the East End Medication Disposal Program,” he said. “It’s a hugely good idea, more so on Long Island than it is for most other places in the state, because there is one sole source aquifer.”
The program, which was established with $2.2 million from several enforcement settlements in the DEC’s Pest Management Program, gets support from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Agricultural Container Recycling Council, Soil and Water Conservation Districts and the New York Farm Bureau.
State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said the DEC is doing right by using enforcement settlement money to take care of the environment instead of putting it back into the general fund.
“Water quality is the number one environmental issue along Long Island,” he said in a phone interview. “Most of the discussion here is about changing policies and the things we do in the future. I hope that when we do come up with a comprehensive groundwater management study and surface-water management strategy within the next year that we continue with a disposal and septic waste program. It is critical.”
For more information on CleanSweepNY call 1-877-793-3769 or visit www.cleansweepny.org.