Chemical Applicator Awareness

Everyone wants a nice green lawn that’s bug and weed free. Unfortunately, in our zeal to achieve them, we tend to use more chemicals than is needed. Sometimes, chemicals aren’t needed at all! Pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and other maintenance chemicals must be properly applied, stored, handled and disposed of to prevent contamination of surface water and groundwater. Misuse of pesticides and herbicides can result in adverse impacts to aquatic life, even at low concentrations. Misuse of fertilizer can result in algae overgrowth in water bodies, causing the oxygen that aquatic life needs in order to live to be depleted. Commercial chemical applicators and homeowners can help reduce or eliminate storm water runoff pollution caused by these chemicals by using some of these basic practices.

Basic Practice Guidelines
Application and Handling
  1. Apply fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals according to manufacturer’s directions. The label is the law for pesticide usage. Application should be at the lowest effective labeled rate.
  2. Keep pesticide and fertilizer equipment properly calibrated according to the manufacturer’s instructions and in good repair. Recalibrate equipment periodically to compensate for wear in pumps, nozzles and metering systems. Calibrate sprayers when new nozzles are installed.
  3. All mixing and loading operations should occur on an impervious surface. An impervious surface is one that doesn’t allow water or chemicals to soak into the ground.
  4. To prevent possible backflow and contamination of a water supply, never submerge a water supply hose in a chemical tank or container. Provide proper backflow prevention devices where required.
  5. Do not apply pesticides during high temperatures or windy conditions.
  6. Time chemical applications for optimum effectiveness. Avoid application of any pesticide, herbicide or fertilizer immediately prior to forecasted or inclement heavy rainfall or irrigation that would result in runoff of the chemicals.
  7. Sweep chemicals that may have fallen upon impervious surfaces such as sidewalks or driveways back onto the lawn.
  8. Commercial applicators should keep records of pesticide application and provide signage as may be required by law.
  1. Store all chemicals in a safe, dry place with labels intact.
  2. Storage areas should be secure and covered, preventing exposure to rain and unauthorized access. Basic safety equipment such as fire extinguishers, warning signs (e.g., "no smoking"), adequate light and ventilation and spill clean-up materials should be present. Floors and shelves should be non-porous (e.g., metal, concrete) to prevent sorption of chemicals. If possible, temperature control should be provided to avoid excessive heat or cold. Storage areas should be kept clear of combustible material and debris.
  3. Store nitrate-based and other oxidizing fertilizers separately from solvents, fuels and pesticides to reduce fire risk. Follow the general principle of storing like chemicals together.
  4. Store chemicals in their original containers, tightly closed, with labels intact. Also inspect them regularly for leaks.
  5. Dry chemicals should be stored above liquids and on pallets to ensure that they do not get wet.
  6. Commercial applicators should locate chemical storage and maintenance areas, as well as vehicle refueling and maintenance areas, away from wells and surface water bodies, typically at least 50 to 100 feet away.
  7. Commercial applicators should make available all Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) in a readily accessible area. A list of all hazardous chemicals in the work place must be completed to ensure that all MSDSs are readily available.
  8. Do not store large quantities of pesticides for long periods of time. Adopt the "first in-first out" principle, using the oldest products first to ensure that the shelf life does not expire. Buy smaller quantities of pesticides and fertilizers, thereby reducing storage issues.
Spills and Disposal
  1. Keep chemical spill cleanup equipment, personal protective equipment and emergency phone numbers available when handling chemicals and their containers.
  2. Properly manage chemical spills by cleaning them up as soon as possible, controlling actively spilling or leaking materials, containing the spilled material (e.g., with absorbents, sand), collecting the spilled material, storing or disposing of the spilled material, and following relevant spill reporting requirements. “Washing down” a spill with water is not an appropriate cleanup approach.
  3. Basic spill reporting requirements include: name, address and phone number of person reporting and of person responsible for release; date and time; type, name and estimated amount of substance released; location/address of released substance; size/description of affected area; containment/cleanup actions taken; and other agencies/persons contacted.
  4. Never pour lawn and garden chemicals or rinse water down storm drains and keep chemicals off of impervious surfaces (e.g., streets, gutters) during application. Use local recycling centers to dispose of chemicals. Homeowners can take their unused chemicals to the Memphis and Shelby County Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility.
  5. Follow label directions for disposal. This typically involves triple-rinsing empty containers, puncturing and crushing. All visible chemicals should be cleaned from the container prior to disposal.
You are the key to reducing the amount chemicals cause storm water runoff pollution. By determining the need for chemicals, using only the least required to achieve your goals, making sure the chemicals stay where you want them once applied and properly storing and disposing of them, you are helping to reduce or eliminate storm water runoff pollution. Help your neighbors do the same by passing on this information.

Some information on this page was obtained from the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide, Fertilizer and Other Chemical Storage, Handling and Disposal pdf (