Experience in the sphere of neutralization of prohibited and unsuitable for usage pesticides on the territory of Poland

Zdislaw Strycharz, councilor Of Lublin wojewoda, expert in pesticides maintenance.

Socialist planned economy introduced the principle of centralized distribution on all levels of activity. According to this principle, there were distributed, for example, seed grains, fertilizers and substances for plant protection in agriculture. Not all substances acquired for this purpose were used in good time and therefore they became stale, and their stores were increasing in storehouses.

Very little of these stores within the country were involved into exchange among interested local agricultural cooperatives. The amount of the rest of the stores became growing into a serious problem. At the same time new and more effective means started to appear and old stopped to be used. On the one hand they were meant to improve harvest, on the other hand if stored improperly, they posed a danger for people’s health and life.

In 1971 Instruction #1/71 on “principles and ways of liquidating defective chemical substances for plant protection that were excluded from trade turnover” was issued. Such substances as DDT, mercurial and arsenic solutions for grain treatment also started to be removed. There was a centralized order which determined the ways of dealing with stale means of plant protection. Insecticides should be placed into concrete containers, so called “burials”, the package should be burned down, the ashes should be placed into the container too or buried somewhere on the roadside. The place where the insecticides were buried should be marked with a concrete pole with a tablet with a skull.

Today reading these materials we realize how carelessly these wastes which are mostly poisonous could be treated. Builders of these so called burials, that is former agricultural cooperatives “Rural self-reliance” have decayed leaving in heritage this unsolved problem.

During 30 years in those burials everything got mixed. Even chemists cannot say exactly what is there inside, and now to determine the composition of such conglomerate is very hard, expensive and requires great efforts and therefore it’s senseless to do this. From this point of view these burials became big chemical reactors where uncontrolled chemical reactions take place. It should be also mentioned that in each separate case the situation is different and of different scale. The worst problem is that from the surface one cannot see what is happening inside. On the surface there grow trees, bushes and grass. As a proof of how dangerous the substances in these burials are can serve bright examples provided by the Institute of Plant Protection in Sosnicowice.

ENOLOFOS, a substance against Colorado beetle, is referred to the II-nd class of toxicity. It active biological component has a long period of decomposition. In concentrated acid in which human body decomposes very quickly, half of the components of enolofos decompose only in 400 hours. The same substance in soil waters with no light, oxygen and bacteria may not decompose at all and in such a form get from soil waters to drinking water.
MSZYCOL, once very popular substance, contains lindane. It decomposes under the influence of rain and melt water with escape of hydrogen chloride which ruins concrete constructions of the burials.
ARETIT – a substance against weeds, contains dinosep which is suspected to have fatal influence on a fetus and to cause infertility of men who have respiratory contact with this substance. For this reason it was removed from production and its storages were placed into burials.
ORGANIC MERCURY is contained in old substances for grain treatment. It perfectly well dissolves in organic solvents and in water. In soil under the influence of bacteria organic mercury decomposes to methyl mercury which equally well decomposes in water. And people drink this water. Examples closely related to this problem are tragedies in the area near the Amazon river or in Japan where many people died after eating fish containing substances of mercurial origin.

No wonder that substances placed in those burials destroyed concrete constructions and rosin protecting cover which was placed both inside and outside of the container.

In 1980 it was prohibited to build such ranges-burials, but there was not prepared a safe method of liquidating stale substances for plant protection and their packages. Insecticides were laid in different storehouses which were not always adapted for this purpose.

According to statistical data, on the territory of Poland as of 31.12.1998 there were more than 400 of such burials which were also called environmental bombs, 100 of them were depressurized. Together with substances placed in other storehouses and with peasants, the problem weighing 60,000 tons appeared, and it was to be solved.

Unfortunately, attempts made in this country in order to utilize these wastes had no results. Building new, environmentally reliable burials next to the old ones was not a good recipe of solving this serious problem. Building furnaces for burning was not supported by the public , especially by environmental organizations.

In Europe thanks to the Basel Convention on “control over transboundary move and removal of dangerous wastes” this problem was solved thanks to already existing furnaces. However, our legislation didn’t allow to take hazardous wastes abroad. But ratification of this Convention and changes in our legislation opened us the way to Europe.

Simultaneously with the attempts to solve the problem of liquidating stale pesticides, research of the state of burials was conducted. Among others research conducted at the cement plant located in Rejoviec Fabryczny showed, for example, that heavy metals are absorbed by clinker while chlorine originated compounds mercury and arsenic get into atmosphere. These are compounds which contain pesticides. Thus, without detailed selection of the content of the burials their utilization in rotating furnaces of the cement plant is dangerous.

Members of State Environmental Institute, the Institute of Plant Protection in Sosnicowice and the Leading Inspection of Plant Protection made an inventory of burials in separate wojewodstwos. Within this research burials in our wojewodstwo have also been inspected, namely in Dratowie gm. Ludwiń, Biskupicy gm. Trawniki, Tomaszow gm. Puławy, Góry Opolskie gm. Opole Lubelskie, Kaliłów gm. Biała Podlaska, Adamki gm. Radzyń Podlaski, Królewski Dwór gm. Parczew, Korolówka gm. Włodawa, Kol. Hruszów gm. Rejowiec, Krupe gm. Krasnystaw, Niedzieliska gm. Szczebrzeszyn, Hrebenne I and II gm. Lubycza Królewska.

Unfortunately, it was proved that with time and under influence of external and internal processes depressurization had place and waste waters had contact with underground waters. There was made an inventory of substances for plant protection located in other storehouses of former agricultural cooperatives “Rural self-reliance”. But practical steps were to be undertaken that is practical liquidation of the burials.

The main principle of holding the unlimited tender announced by Lublin wojewoda, was full (100%) liquidation of burials, that is their contents, premises and contaminated soil. The tender was won by a consortium consisting of specialized enterprises from Poland and the Plant of wastes burning in Rotterdam – Holland. For the first time in Polish environment there was a chance to remove very dangerous wastes. However, in order to provide this realization with very practical dimension, it was necessary to satisfy a number of very strict and complicated conditions: first of all it was necessary to get permission from the German Ministry of Environmental Protection to enter Germany and to perform transportation through the territory of this country; secondly, it was necessary to get permission from the Ministry of Environmental Protection of Holland to enter the territory of this country and to burn wastes at the plant in Rotterdam; and thirdly, on the basis of the two previously mentioned documents to get permission of the Leading Inspection of Environmental Protection to take these wastes out of Poland. All these permissions were received with great support from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources and the Leading Inspection of Environmental Protection.

Simultaneously with the formal procedures, no less important activities were performed in order to receive financial means. We were greatly supported by the Fund of Environmental Protection and Water Management as well as by the Wojewodstwo Fund of Environemntal Protection and Water Management in Lublin. Therefore, with the financial support from these bodies we could start realizing the whole operation. It covered the period of 18 months- the whole year 1999 and half of 2000 – and over 650 tons of these hazardous wastes were removed from five ranges-burials. The second phase lasted till the end of 2001, 10 more burials were liquidated and 830 tons of wastes were transported to Rotterdam. Thus, in total 15 burials and 55 storehouses were liquidated, and about 1,500 tons of deadly load were utilized on the plant in Holland.

The undertaken liquidation actions revealed the scale of the problem and tasks that should be solved. Among them:- contents of the burials – it’s homogenous mixed mass which is thinner in its upper layers and thicker in lower layers;- structure and form of the wastes do not allow to perform any selection, that is why it is not possible to burn this mass in furnaces of cement plants;- increase in the amount of liquid leads to increase of the mass of a burial in comparison with primary calculations;- because of considerable concentration of stench near burials it is necessary to preserve certain rules when performing liquidation works – it is necessary to work in gas-masks and special overalls not longer than 1-1.5 hours and with long breaks lasting 1-1.5 hour fro groups.

I think that the example of liquidating such hazardous wastes on the territory of Lublin wojewodstwo is an important stage in the history of Polish environment. Since that time we have been willingly sharing information with all who are interested in it. Our experience was useful for other wojewodstwos, in particular for podkarpackie, wielkopolskie, zachodnio-pomorskie, mazowieckie and warmińsko-mazurskie

I am convinced that the theme of liquidating burials has reached its better times the proof of which is our today’s presence here.