Project Safe Send to collect at Bowman and Belfield
DICKINSON - During the month of July, Project Safe Send, an initiative to collect unusable pesticides free of charge, is collecting in 16 cities and towns across North Dakota.
Project Safe Send, which has been going on for approximately 16 years, was originally recommended to the Legislature by pesticide companies to help citizens to safely dispose of their unusable pesticides. Since its start in 1992, more than 2 million pounds of waste pesticides have been collected.
Project Safe Send is taking pesticides from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Department of Transportation office in Bowman on Wednesday, July 16, and the same offices located in Jamestown and Belfield on Thursday, July 17.
North Dakota Agricultural Commissioner Roger Johnson said the project was never expected to last as long as it has.
"When it first began, it was advocated for by the pesticide companies. It was believed that it would be just a few years and we'd have all these old, outdated and unusable pesticides out of the system and then we'd discontinue the program," Johnson said. "Almost every legislative session we get that question, and the answer is always the same, which is 'I don't think it will ever outlive it's usefulness as long as we have pesticides.'"
Johnson said with each session of Project Safe Send, a sizeable amount of DDT is still being acquired, which has been banned for quite some time. Johnson equates the steady intake of DDT, as well as other outdated pesticides, to different factors.
"What happens is as farmlands change hands, and you open a shed door and find a whole bunch of stuff you're not even sure what it is," Johnson said. "Secondly, there are a number of pesticide products that are sensitive to freezing, and if kept over winter outside, they become unusable. Thirdly, periodically we have pesticides that simply just go off-label and are no longer legal to use."
No questions are asked at collection sites, but Johnson said if people do know what the product is, collection personnel would like to know to have an idea of what products are coming in.
"It is by no means required, and we understand that many of the products that come in are in old containers," Johnson said. "Many of the old steel containers are rusted out."
Project Safe Send contracts with an environmental firm to safely dispose of the pesticides acquired, which are then predominantly incinerated.
Johnson said in the early years of the program, there was some distrust due to the pre-registration that was required.
"We used to have people register in advance," Johnson said. "We did that so we knew how much capacity we needed to have available at the various sites. We had a lot people in the early years that were reluctant because they were afraid the government would get their name and maybe they were doing something illegal."
The current program requires no pre-registration, although Johnson asks citizens with large amounts of chemicals to call the Department of Agriculture so they can properly handle the chemicals.
Project Safe Send began its tour in North Dakota this year by collecting 63,116 pounds of unusable pesticides from West Fargo, Grafton and Grand Forks. The project has seen 162 participants so far.
"We just want to get them out of the environment and dispose of them safely," Johnson said of the chemicals.
For more information about Project Safe Send, visit www.agdepartment.com, or call the North Dakota Department of Agriculture at 701-328-2231.