Farmers in the path of the cresting Mississippi River floodwaters should take precautions to minimize effects of the flood. High on the “to-do list” is moving farm chemicals out of harm’s way.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality is urging farmers, homeowners and those whose businesses deal with chemicals to beware of environmental issues that can result if flooding reaches them. Among the farm chemicals that should be moved are herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, fuels and treated seeds.

“The release of oil, gasoline or chemicals into flood waters can be a safety hazard, and we are asking homeowners and businesses to take some precautions during flood preparations,” Trudy Fisher, MDEQ executive director, said in a May 4 statement. “A few simple measures will save homeowners and businesses money while protecting our waters.”

Larry Oldham, soil specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said producers in areas projected to flood should put into action their plans for stored chemicals.

“A lot of these chemicals are kept in specialized storage containers that should be emptied and the chemicals moved to a safe location,” Oldham said. “Producers should account for all the chemicals on their farms, including those in above- and below-ground storage tanks, in tanks on tractors and stored indoors.”

Getting farm chemicals to safety prevents financial losses and protects the environment.

“You need to protect your investment. These things are expensive,” Oldham said. “In addition to the cost, it is very dangerous to the environment for these fuels and chemicals to be released into flood waters.”

Darrin Dodds, Extension cotton specialist, said many chemicals are packaged in plastic jugs or in small tanks and can be loaded onto trucks and hauled to higher ground.

“Mini bulk tanks, which are containers that typically hold in excess of 200 gallons, can be picked up with a forklift and placed on a truck to be carried away,” Dodds said. “Larger tanks that can’t be easily picked up due to construction or placement should be emptied and the contents taken to high ground.”

Some large tanks are in protected areas with spill containment systems in place. However, these protective structures are not likely to keep the chemicals from washing away if flood waters engulf the area.

“Those in areas where the water is supposed to come are going to need to look at different ways to transport chemicals out of these storage containers and into safe, secure storage areas,” Dodds said.

Andy Prosser, bureau director of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, spoke at Delta Council’s annual meeting at Delta State University.

“One thing I would stress to farmers and ag people is your on-farm storage of pesticides and soil fertilizers,” Prosser said. “Keep in mind your elevations and where you’re storing these chemicals. It is very important that you try to get these away from the farm and stored properly.”

MDEQ urged farmers to ensure that all farm chemicals are secured, properly sealed, closed and in a safe place. They have asked producers to prepare an inventory of any large storage tanks that cannot be emptied or moved. Inventories will be given to response officials if needed.

Contact MDEQ’s 24-hour spill line at (800) 222-6362 to report any problems.