CHEMISTRY LESSON: National program manager for ChemClear and Drum Muster Lisa Nixon (left) and Michelle McAndrew of HQ Forestry discuss the best ways to dispose of farm chemicals.
CHEMISTRY LESSON: National program manager for ChemClear and Drum Muster Lisa Nixon (left) and Michelle McAndrew of HQ Forestry discuss the best ways to dispose of farm chemicals. Contributed

Disposing of farm chemicals

DISPOSING of unwanted chemicals stored on many farming properties was proving a major headache for landholders and authorities.

The problem was recognised 15 years ago and organised pick-ups of unwanted chemicals allowed some farms to clear their stock.

But this program stopped before the problem was over.

There are two programs for chemical disposal - the Drum Muster, which takes clean chemical drums; and ChemClear, which picks up drums that still contain some chemicals.

Following a query from a delegate about what could be done regarding some unknown chemicals, the Mary River Catchment Co-ordination Committee arranged a visit by the Canberra-based national program manager for ChemClear and Drum Muster, Lisa Nixon.

Ms Nixon said many farms had unknown, unlabelled chemical containers in their sheds.

"This could happen because they missed the pick-up, have purchased a property and then discovered the problem or have ceased to use the product," she said. "Drum Muster looks after containers produced by manufacturers, who have included a 4c per container levy in the price."

She said these were Group 1 containers but the real problem was chemicals more than two years old or drums, whose contents were unknown, and these were classed as Group 2.

"Group 2 chemicals are the responsibility of the farmer to dispose of," she said. "In many instances, this is economically out of reach."

She said on one farm it would cost more than $300,000 to correctly destroy stored chemicals.

"When a farmer contacts us with Group 2 chemicals, that information remains confidential - we do not tell anyone who has them," Ms Nixon said. "But for many chemicals, we strongly lobby governments to cover the cost of destruction."

At intervals, ChemClear conducted pick-ups of chemicals. These chemicals were disposed of at no cost to the landholder, if a State Government subsidy was in place.

Ms Nixon said old arsenic-based formulations (legal at the time) were one of the biggest problems, as destruction was by plasma ray, heating to more than 3000 degrees.

She said ChemClear would stay in touch with landholders who contacted them about Group 2 chemicals and would notify them when a pick-up was in the area.

"For many farms, the problem of what to do with Group 2 chemicals arises when the property is offered for sale," Ms Nixon said. "The presence of Group 2 can make a property unsalable."

Email chemclear@agsafe.com.au.



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