Cleanups can range in complexity from taking just a few hours to spanning decades.  A one-time accident or release might spill some chemicals onto an area that is easy to access and doesn’t require special equipment.  Large and long-term site cleanups deal with the build-up of many small spills over the course of years because contamination is widespread or not easily accessible.

The first step to either kind of spill is always report it. The MDA has guidance to assist you with:

  • Securing a site to prevent further leaks or runoff
  • Determining the extent of damage from a spill or leak
  • Salvaging product containers

How do you manage contaminated media, used absorbent materials, or unusable chemical products and containers?

What is contaminated media and how do I manage it?

Pesticide and fertilizer spills or leaks need to be contained and cleaned up, especially if the chemicals come into contact with soil, water, sediment, debris, or other material. These materials are considered to be “contaminated” because agricultural chemicals are at concentrations high enough to cause damage to the environment.

Land Application

A common approach to managing contaminated media such as soil or water is to spread it onto cropland at the labeled or agronomic rate. This will require permission from a landowner, the use of a licensed applicator to spread the media, and pre-approval by the MDA. Land application is often an inexpensive option and keeps contaminated media out of the waste stream.

Complete guidelines are available for filling out a land application proposal.


You may choose to dispose of contaminated media at a landfill if land application is not an option.

It is the responsibility of the landfill to make sure that the acceptance of any materials for disposal does not violate their Minnesota Pollution Control Agency landfill operator’s permit.

It is your responsibility to comply with all requirements regarding testing or other means of characterizing the soil required by the landfill. Once the soil is transferred to a landfill it is considered a waste material and is no longer regulated by the MDA.

Waste Pesticide Disposal Options

Pesticide containers may become damaged and both the integrity of the container and the product are questionable. These unused and unwanted pesticides must be disposed of according to label directions. It is illegal to burn or bury a pesticide!

The MDA has partnered with most counties to provide a means to safely dispose of unwanted and unusable pesticides through the Waste Pesticide Collection Program. This environmentally sound program now provides expanded opportunities to dispose of potentially hazardous waste pesticides.

Through the Waste Pesticide Collection Program, pesticide users in almost every county around the state will have opportunities to dispose of unwanted agricultural pesticides through county household hazardous waste facilities, county mobile events or by attending MDA scheduled events in counties that have yet to enter a partnership. Counties may require pre-notification from farmers and others so as to better prepare for the delivery.

Pesticide Container Disposal

Follow label use, storage and disposal instructions.

  • Store pesticides only in the original labeled container, separated from other products (such as food, feed and seed), and in a locked building with appropriate warning signs.
  • Pressure rinse or triple rinse containers immediately after emptying. Delay in rinsing pesticide containers may result in a residue that, upon drying, is highly resistant to rinsing. Use rinsate as dilution make-up water and apply evenly over labeled crops or sites.
  • Dispose of empty paper bags, plastic bags and other types of containers at sanitary landfills. Contact waste hauler or landfill operator for information.
  • Recycle triple-rinsed or pressure-rinsed rigid plastic pesticide containers through a local empty pesticide container recycling program. Contact your local pesticide retailer for recycling opportunities.
  • Do not reuse pesticide containers unless they are dedicated for reuse or unless they have been cleaned according to the pesticide manufacturer’s protocol and are intended to be refilled with pesticides.

Is there assistance for paying for cleanup work?

The MDA has access to funding sources to assist with spill cleanup.  The two main sources for emergency spills are:

  • ACRRA: The Agricultural Chemical Response Reimbursement Act uses fees from pesticide sales in Minnesota to fund both emergency and long-term cleanup projects.
  • MERLA: The Minnesota Environmental Response and Liability Act allows the MDA to declare an emergency and use dedicated funds and state contractors to conduct cleanup work.