Indiana Farmstead Assessment for Drinking Water Protection

Fertilizer Handeling & Storage


Introduction Mixing & Loading Mixing & Loading Pad Management During Mixing & Loading Fertilizer storage Non-bulk quantities Bulk Quantities Authors Contacts & References

Fertilizer Handling & Storage Survey


This fact sheet discusses ways to reduce risks of water contaminationassociated with fertilizer handling and storage on the farmstead. An important decision for today's farmers is whether or not to store bulk quantities of fertilizer on the farm. Bulk fertilizer storage represents a greater potential for a large fertilizer spill, but even small spills or leaks can contaminate water sources. For the most part, you can control the factors that reduce the risk of contamination without investing a lot of time or money. Taking steps to reduce risk is the best way to protect your drinking water and property value.

Mixing and loading

Water contamination can result from small quantities spilled regularly in the same place. This may be the case at the site where fertilizers are mixed and loaded into the application equipment. If this site is near the water well, the risk that spilled fertilizer could contaminate your well water is relatively high. The risk increases if the site has a gravel or soil surface, especially a sandy soil through which water can pass relatively quickly.

Mixing and loading pad

A concrete or asphalt pad with curbs around the edge is the best methodof containing spills and leaks of liquid fertilizer that can occur during mixing and loading (Figure 1). A concrete and asphalt pad, designed by a professional engineer, is recommended to ensure the proper mixture of materials for an impermeable surface to prevent spilled fertilizer from leaching through the soil to the groundwater. Curbs prevent contaminated washoff from reaching nearby surface waters.

The pad should be large enough to accommodate your equipment and contain leaks from tanks, wash water and spills that occur during fertilizer transfer to the application equipment. There are special rules regarding mixing and loading pads for bulk fertilizer storage.

Figure 1. Example of a fertilizer mixing and loading pad.

Management during mixing and loading

Spills and leaks are bound to occur fromtime to time. Even if you don't have a concrete pad for mixing and loading you can minimizethe risk of water contamination by following these basic guidelines:

Fertilizer storage Non-bulk quantities

Fertilizers pose little danger to water resources when stored safely in a secure location. The following simple guidelines help ensure a safe fertilizer storage area.

Bulk quantities

On-farm storage of bulk fertilizer quantitiesis common. Bulk storage is regulated by the Office of Indiana State Chemist. Fertilizer storage of the following quantities is defined as bulk storage and must be registered with the Office of Indiana State Chemist:

	-- a liquid tank with capacity 
	   greater than 2,500 gallons 
	-- more than 12 tons of dry fertilizer 
	   (in an undivided quantity) stored in 
	   one location 

Listed below are some key guidelines forbulk storage. Note that this
list is not complete and you should check with your local
Extensioneducator or the Office of Indiana State Chemist for further

Spill cleanup and container disposal For dry spills, promptly sweep up and reusethe fertilizer as it was intended. Dry spills are usually very easy to clean up, however, a mixing/loading pad would help in recovering as much of the spilled product as possible. Dry impregnated fertilizer is considered a pesticide and, if spilled, should be recovered and applied to the target crop at the approved rate. For liquid spills, recover as much of the spill as possible and reuse as it was intended. Some contaminated soil may need to be removed and field applied. Contact the Office of Indiana State Chemist for details. Be prepared in case a spill or leak occurs.Have telephone numbers and cleanup supplies readily available. Spills that enter or threaten to enter the waters of the state should be reported to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. You must also call the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Response Center within 15 minutes of a release to the environment if the material and quantity spilled are on the EPA's required list for reporting. Check with your dealer if you are uncertain about this list. You may also want to call your local emergency planning committee and fire department. Bulk deliveries of liquid and dry fertilizershave greatly reduced the need to dispose of containers; however, bagged fertilizers are still inuse. After loading a bag's contents, split the bag and shake it out. Bundle empty bags and dispose of them in a landfill. You may be able to recycle empty fertilizer bags after removing the plastic vapor barrier. Check local ordinances first. Open burning of empty bags on the farm is not legal in Indiana. Other management factors Reducing fertilizer waste makes financial aswell as environmental sense, but it means more than just reducing spills. It also means not buying more than you need and keeping records on what you do have on hand. Knowing how much you've used in the past and what you have on hand allows you to make better purchasing decisions. Buying only what you need makes long term storage unnecessary and decreases the risk of spills or accidents. Although this fact sheet focuses on protecting groundwater, fertilizer spills are a threat to surface water quality, too. As you evaluate risks of water contamination on your farmstead, don't forget to consider the potential impact of fertilizer spills on surface waters.


Sarah Brichford
Cherri Jansen
Joe Yahner
Joe Eigle

Contacts and References

General information & regulations
Purdue University Cooperative Extension    
Service 888/EXT-INFO or local office

Office of Indiana State Chemist 
1154 Biochemistry Building 
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1154 

Purdue Pesticide Programs
1155 Lilly Hall West Lafayette, IN 47907-1155 


Report spills to:

	EPA National Response Center
	(within 15 minutes for reportable quantities)

	Indiana Department of 
	Environmental Management 
	Emergency Response Spill Line
	888/233-7745 (toll free Indiana only)

	Office of Indiana State Chemist 
	1154 Biochemistry Building
	West Lafayette, IN  47907-1154 

What to read about...

MWPS-37 Designing Facilities forPesticide and Fertilizer Containment (1)

PPP-28 Pesticides and Spill Management (2)

PPP-32 Pesticides and Community Right-to-Know (2)

Rules and Regulations Under the Indiana Fertilizer Law (for Bulk Quantities) (Title 355 Indiana Administrative Code) (3)

On-Farm Fertilizer Storage (CD-ROM)

Nitrate and Pesticides in Private Wells ofIndiana xbue


The number's corespond to the numbers listed above)

	1. Purdue University Cooperative Extension
	   offices 888/EXT-INFO or
	   Media Distribution Center
	   301 S. 2nd Street Lafayette, IN  
	   47901-1232317/494-6794 or 1-888/EXT-INFO

	2. Purdue Pesticide Programs
	   1155 Lilly Hall
	   West Lafayette, IN  47907-1155

	3. Office of Indiana State Chemist
	   1154 Biochemistry Building
	   West Lafayette, IN  47907-1154

	4. Center for Technology Transfer and
	   Pollution Prevention
	   1146 Agricultural and Biological
	   Engineering Bldg. 
	   West Lafayette, IN  47907-1146

	5. Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc.
	   P.O. Box 1290
	   Indianapolis, IN  46206

Fertilizer Handling & Storage Fact Sheet and Surveywere developed by Sarah Brichford, Extension Water Quality Specialist, Department of Agronomy; FredWhitford, Coordinator, Purdue Pesticide Programs; Randy Carson, Engineering Specialist, and MikeHancock, Fertilizer Administrator, Office of the Indiana State Chemist. Editor: Cheri Janssen, Department of Agronomy

Click here for Survey 3:

Fertilizer Handling & Storage Survey

Reviewed 5/1/01

It is the policy of the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, David C. Petritz, Director, that all persons shall have equal opportunity and access to its programs and facilities without regard to race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, or disability. Purdue University is an Affirmative Action employer. This material may be available in alternative formats. 1-888-EXT-INFO.