The state is collecting record amounts of pesticides and chemicals on Long Island

New York State collected nearly 220,000 pounds of unused pesticides and chemicals in New York City and Long Island from farmers and commercial pesticide users during pesticide collection events in July, breaking previous collection records, officials said.

Called CleanSweepNY and launched in 2002 by the Department of Environmental Protection, the sweeps are held periodically to dispose of unwanted pesticides and other chemicals. Of the chemicals turned over to DEC during the July event, a whopping 191,512 pounds were pesticides, along with smaller amounts of flammable liquids, motor oil and other chemicals, a DEC spokesperson told Newsday.

CleanSweepNY collects unused or expired chemicals from farmers and all New York State-certified pesticide applicators, including cemeteries, golf courses, landscapers and marinas. The final round included paint, aerosol cans, propane tanks and fluorescent lights. DEC held meetings in Queens, Riverhead and Melville.

It was the first fundraising event in New York in nearly 20 years. The last collection took place on Long Island in 2019, a DEC spokesman said.

“DEC is pleased to have so many farmers, businesses and institutions in the region participating in this critical work to help build a toxic-free future for New York State,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggas.

The events give commercial pesticide users an easy way to get rid of unwanted and expired chemicals at no cost, which could otherwise be expensive and time-consuming, said Nora Catlin, agricultural program director at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Suffolk County. She said commercial users undergo training, including an exam, to learn how to properly use and store pesticides.

“Making it easy and free really encourages people. …That way, growers know they can remove that pesticide from their inventory,” she said, adding that it also encourages users to regularly review their inventory and test for unwanted chemicals.

The CleanSweepNY project is spearheaded by DEC’s Pesticide Management Program for the proper disposal of potentially harmful chemicals. DEC contracts with a vendor that collects the materials and transports them to storage and disposal sites, the spokesman said.

If applicants hold on to outdated pesticides, it creates a risk of unintended use of expired products or possible contamination if containers leak, Catlin said, adding that pesticide use for licensed users is tightly regulated with safety measures to minimize and deter leaks.

“It’s a painstaking process to get a product approved and approved for use,” she said.

At Cornell Cooperative Extension, Kathleen’s team works with applicators and provides training on the best and safest pesticide applications while minimizing environmental impact, she said. There, they enable farmers to use pesticides wisely for their crops. She said she advocates for “integrated pest management or integrated plant management that looks at all things, not just one product that will solve your problem, but more of a process and approach to keeping your plants healthy.”

The use of pesticides and their impact on the environment are under increasing scrutiny, especially on Long Island, where there are fears of chemicals leaching into the ground due to sandy soil. Catlin said alternatives to pesticides are constantly evolving. Recently, farmers have turned to pheromone disruptors to control insect populations, she said, as well as natural plant products.

“The more of them you can incorporate into your production, that means the more pesticides you can reduce,” she said. “Just think of pesticides as a very necessary tool, but only one tool in your toolbox.”

CleanSweepNY in numbers

  • 191,512 pounds of pesticides

  • Paint 10,815 lbs

  • 5.924 lbs Flammable and non-flammable liquids

  • 245 lbs of motor oil

  • 11,335 pounds Other chemicals (lab bags, aerosol cans, propane cans, etc.)

Source: New York State Department of Environmental Protection

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