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Pesticides Fact Sheet

What Are The Potential Hazards?

Pesticides applied to plants during crop, lawn, and garden maintenance may leach into the ground water and cause contamination. Proper storage, mixing, application, spill cleanup, watering, and disposal procedures should be included in pesticide best management practices.

Storing Pesticides

The fewer pesticides you buy, the fewer you will have to store. Therefore, only purchase the amount and kind of pesticide that is needed. Pesticides should always be stored in sound, properly labeled, original containers. Sound containers are the first defense against spills and leaks.

  •   Ensure that there are no holes, tears, or weak seams in the containers and that the label is readable.

  •   Pesticides should be stored in locked, dry cabinets.

  •   Be sure to store dry products above liquids to prevent wetting from spills.

  •   Storage and mixing areas should not be located near floor drains of any kind.

  •   Storage facilities should have secondary containment, such as a berm or dike, which will hold spills or leaks at:

  • 1. 10% of the total volume of the containers, or

  • 2. 110% of the volume of the largest container, whichever is larger.

Mixing Pesticides

  •   Mix pesticides on an impermeable surface, such as concrete, so any spills will be contained.

  •   Mix only the amount that you will use:

  • 1. Measure the total square feet you intend to treat.

  • 2. Read the label on the pesticide container and follow the instructions. (These are often given in terms of amount of pesticide to use per thousand square feet.)

  • 3. By properly measuring and calculating, there should be little or no pesticide left in the spray tank when the job is finished and it will be applied at the recommended rate.

Applying Pesticides

Pesticides are used to kill or control weeds (herbicides), insects (insecticides) and fungi (fungicides) that attack plants. Some of these pesticides can move through the soil and into the ground water.

Guidelines for the safe use of pesticides are listed below:

  •   Be willing to accept a low level of weed, insect, and plant disease infestation.

  •   Use pesticides only when absolutely necessary.

  •   Identify pests correctly. Use the proper pesticides.

  •   Read and follow the directions printed on the container labels. Remember, the label is the law.

  •   Calibrate your spreader and sprayer to keep from applying too much pesticide.

  •   Do not spray or apply pesticides near irrigation wells. Wells are conduits to the ground water.

  •   Do not spray or apply pesticides near your walks and driveway. This prevents them from washing off into the storm drain system.

Cleaning Up Spills

  •   Dry formulated pesticide spills should be swept up and applied to crops, lawns, and gardens at the rate specified on the label.

  •   Liquid pesticide spills should be soaked up using absorbent material (such as, soil, sawdust, and cat litter). The contaminated absorbent material should then be put in a sealed container and taken to a household hazardous waste collection site.


Over-watering your plants can cause excess water to move through the soil. This water can carry pesticides that can contaminate the ground water. The best way to avoid over-watering is simply to measure how much you are adding. Contact your county Extension Service to determine the best way to calculate how much water your plants need and how to measure the amount you are applying.

Disposing of Pesticides

If the pesticide was properly measured and mixed, there should be little or no spray left in the tank. The little that may be left can be safely sprayed over the area that was treated until it is gone. Disposal of “empty” pesticide containers and unused pesticides should be handled as follows:

  •   If you are using liquid pesticides, rinse the container three times. Be sure to pour the rinsing into your sprayer and not down a drain or onto the ground. Containers which have been emptied and rinsed can be discarded in the trash.

  •   Unused pesticides in their original containers can be recycled at household hazardous waste collection sites.

For More Information, Contact:

Division of Drinking Water, Source Protection Program - (801) 536-4200

Department of Agriculture - (801) 538-7100

Environmental Hotline - 1-800-458-0145

Sonja Wallace, Pollution Prevention Coordinator - (801) 536-4477

What zone am I located in?


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