Water Management

Management of water contaminated with plant protection products, fuel and fertilisers

Water contaminated with crop protection products, engine and transmission oils from agricultural machinery is highly harmful to the environment and human health.

Washing, filling and rinsing of sprayers and other on-farm chemicalisation equipment (e.g. dressing machines) at unsuitable sites carries a significant risk of contamination of soil, groundwater and surface water. Active substances can accumulate at the site where they are poured, reaching high concentrations that are dangerous to health. Active substances can also penetrate deep into the soil, contaminating, or even poisoning, groundwater. They can also be washed from the spill site into watercourses, effectively poisoning them. If a farm uses its own water source, especially from shallow water horizons, the water extracted from it may not be usable. Self-purification of groundwater sometimes takes decades. Some active substances have significant detrimental effects on organisms involved in water purification severely inhibiting the process.

As far as possible, each farm should be equipped with a dedicated area for washing mechanical equipment, especially chemical equipment. According to the Code of Good Agricultural Practice, washing facilities for machinery and agricultural equipment should be constructed in such a way as to prevent harmful substances from seeping into groundwater. Washings containing harmful substances should be disposed of in a safe manner, preferably using biological methods, as described in Area 9: ‘Agricultural Chemicals and Waste Management’.

On farms without washing facilities, it is better to wash fertiliser spreaders and sprayers directly in the field, away from watercourses, changing the washing location each time. The water from washing the sprayer tank 3 times should be sprayed on the field where the product was applied, unless additional cleaning agents were used for washing. Care must be taken to ensure that any localised contamination by excess fertiliser and plant protection products does not have a lasting effect on the soil and subsequent crops.

10.18.1 Safe handling of chemicals equipment

Sprayers and fertiliser spreaders must always be handled in a way that does not create hazards either when they are in operation or when they are stationary. Filling of the sprayer should take place on a sealed, paved surface with the possibility of collecting any resulting spillages of the preparations or spray liquid used for disposal. A place to wash the sprayer is described in Area 8: “Plant Protection” and should also be used for filling. Fertiliser spreaders and spreaders should be used in accordance with their instructions and the restrictions applicable to the fertilisers used. During periods of equipment downtime, it is useful to follow the indications in Area 9 ‘Agricultural Chemicals and Waste Management’. Farm machinery manufacturers usually recommend that equipment is stationed under a canopy and on a hard surface. This is related to the need to protect the equipment from the weather and to prevent uncontrolled contamination of the environment with oils, fertilisers and crop protection products. Stationing without a canopy requires better preparation to prevent harmful substances from being flushed from the equipment, while protecting the equipment from corrosion.