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Collection of farm chemicals planned

Niagara County will hold a state-funded collection of old agricultural pesticides next month, and residents will not have to worry about facing any environmental penalties for possessing the chemicals.

The deadline is April 1 for property owners to register for "Operation Clean Sweep," according to Richard P. Pope, director of the county Refuse Disposal District.

Each registrant will be given an appointment during the week of April 24 to deliver the chemicals to the drop-off site, which will be set up at the state Transportation Department garage on Junction Road in the Town of Lockport. Pope said members of the public will not have an opportunity to bring in chemicals unannounced.

"It's really an amnesty program," said County Legislator John Syracuse, R-Newfane, chairman of the Refuse District board.

Syracuse said about a dozen property owners met a March 1 deadline for signing up to hand in unlabeled chemical containers whose contents may be unknown.

The collection of labeled containers, as well as empty containers that once held pesticides, is aimed at farmers or owners of former farms, as well as commercial pesticide applicators.

"Some pesticides are no longer legal for application, and many farmers have been unable to dispose of them because of the high cost of disposing of hazardous materials," Pope said. "A lot of it is in old barns in Niagara County, perhaps sitting on soil floors, where it could leak and leach into ground water."

"There's a lot of mercury out there, liquid mercury, which was historically used for pesticide applications on fruit farms," he added. "We will accept all mercury, no questions asked."

Applying mercury to fruit trees now is illegal, he said.

Pope said all applications to take part in the cleanup will be forwarded to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The DEC also is conducting programs in Erie, Orleans, Genesee and Monroe counties this spring, with each county being assigned one pickup week.

The number to call for an application is 434-6568.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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