Biobeds for Containment and Destruction of Pesticides at Agricultural Mixing and Loading Facilities

EPA Contract Number: 68D00236
Title: Biobeds for Containment and Destruction of Pesticides at Agricultural Mixing and Loading Facilities
Investigators: Lamar, Richard T.
Small Business: EarthFax Development Corporation
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2000 through March 1, 2001
Project Amount: $69,683
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2000) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Pollution Prevention , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


The extensive and widespread use of pesticides in the United States over the past several decades has resulted in their frequent detection in groundwater. More than 50 percent of the U.S. population gets its drinking water from groundwater. Current estimates indicate that, on the basis of active ingredient, 970 million pounds of conventional pesticides (i.e., herbicides/plant growth regulators; insecticides/miticides; fungicides; fumigants/nematicides) are used in the United States in a typical year. More than half of this total comes from agricultural application of herbicides and insecticides (e.g., 551 million pounds in 1995). Although groundwater contamination by pesticides is largely attributed to nonpoint sources, a number of studies that have evaluated pesticide contamination of soil and groundwater at pesticide mixing/loading sites indicate that these sites also are significant "point" sources of groundwater contamination. Although the highest pesticide residue levels at mixing/loading sites have been detected in soils where acute spills have occurred, contamination at these sites, most of which are located on the 1.4 million farms that have been estimated to use pesticides, has been shown to be chronic rather than episodic. This indicates that pesticide spillage at mixing/loading sites is an ongoing problem that requires an inexpensive, easily implemented solution that pesticide users can afford and be encouraged to use.

The installation of well-designed, chemical mixing centers (CMCs), that include a roofed structure over a concrete pad with associated pumps and tanks, has been proposed to prevent soil and groundwater contamination associated with improper mixing/loading of pesticides. However, most farm families do not possess the financial resources to construct one of these $20,000 to $40,000 facilities.

Biobeds represent a cost-effective (approximately $2,500 to $3,000 for installation) alternative to CMCs that are simple in design, easy and inexpensive to maintain, employ inexpensive materials that are readily available to farmers, and are based on the microbial degradation of pesticides. A biobed is a rectangular excavation, larger in area by at least 0.5 m on any side than the mixing equipment and about 60 cm deep. The bed is lined on the bottom with clay or a synthetic material to prevent leaching of pesticides to the underlying soil, filled with a combination of top soil/peat and a lignocellulosic substrate that promotes microbial activity, and covered with a layer of grass to prevent moisture loss. EarthFax proposes, in Phase I, to conduct a laboratory-scale evaluation of pesticide containment and degrading performance of biobeds toward several commonly used U.S. agricultural herbicides. This information will be used in the design of a field-scale technical and economic evaluation of biobeds during Phase II.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, pollution prevention, pesticides, agriculture, engineering, nonpoint sources, EPA., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Toxics, Waste, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Sustainable Industry/Business, Chemical Engineering, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Environmental Chemistry, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Chemical Mixtures - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecosystem Protection, Chemistry, pesticides, chemical mixtures, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Analytical Chemistry, Ecological Effects - Human Health, Chemistry and Materials Science, Agronomy, Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Ecological Indicators, Agricultural Engineering, pesticide exposure, agricultural environments, agricultural mixing/loading , agriculture, agrochemcial, biobeds, agricultural chemical application

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report