Mini-Bulks In The Crosshairs

When it amended the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), EPA was required by Congress to promulgate regulations prescribing procedures and standards for container design and standards and the removal of pesticides from containers prior to disposal. The purpose of the rule is straightforward and clear:

■ Minimize human exposure during container handling and use.

■ Provide for a reasonable indication if anyone other than the authorized filler or refiller has introduced material into a refillable container.

■ Facilitate container disposal and recycling.

■ Encourage the use of refillable containers.

ALL containers — new or currently in use as refillable containers — must be compliant no later than Aug. 16, 2011, without exception. There are no grace period or “grandfathering” provisions in the rule.

Although the exact number is not known, it is estimated that there could be 400,000 to 500,000 containers currently being used as refillable containers for crop protection products that must be retrofitted to comply or be recycled in a responsible manner as prescribed by the label registrant in August 2011.

Looking At The Provisions

The key provisions of the section that pertains to refillable containers are:

Applicability. Any registrant of a product that packages the product in bulk or a refillable mini-bulk must ensure that the container is compliant. Any authorized refiller of a registrant’s product must also comply and only refill that registrant’s product into containers that the registrant has specifically identified as “acceptable containers” by description, part number, or other clear means.

Tamper-Evident Device and/or One-Way Valves. All portable refillable containers, when they leave the registrant as a filled package size, or an authorized refiller, must have a tamper-evident device and/or a one-way valve on all openings (except for vents) to be compliant. A tamper-evident device, such as a wire seal or crimp seal, that can be visually inspected to determine if the container has been opened will work for some openings, but for bottom drain valves that will be used by the applicator to extract the crop protection product, a one-way valve is needed or the container will need to be cleaned before refilling. In addition to 2-inch bungs such as container caps and bottom drain valve openings, EPA clarified the rule in De­cember 2009: Any pump that is integrally mounted to a refillable container and travels with the container to and from the authorized fill or refill point is an opening. The pump must have a one-way valve or tamper-evident seals that can be wire sealed to the container to provide “reasonable indication” that product from an unauthorized source was introduced into the container.

Unless a pumping system is specifically designed with a internal one-way check valve — not to be confused with a bypass valve that allows for recirculation of a product — the system, if it is integrally attached to a refillable container, may not comply with the intent of the EPA 2011 rule. For many of the system configurations in use today, there does not seem to be an effective and positive way to attach a wire seal to the different points between the discharge hose, pump, or meter/ball valve assembly of those pumps integrally attached to a refillable container that would provide a “reasonable indication” that an unauthorized source had introduced something into the container. Since there are no eyelets or other means through which a wire seal can be looped between the different threaded parts of today’s crop protection product pumping systems, someone could unscrew a meter and attach a discharge hose from another source and pump material back through the pump of the empty mini-bulk.

Farmchem’s solution is a 1-inch in-line check valve with a molded-in eyelet that will allow the container owner to wire seal the one-way valve to the container. This provides the “reasonable indication” that some unauthorized source has tampered with the container and complies with the EPA rule intent. The in-line check valve can be threaded into the discharge port of the pump and then the discharge hose threaded into the downstream port of the one-way valve.

Markings. The rule requires that each refillable container have a durable marking, which could be a non-repetitive serial number or other “unique” identifier. EPA is still in the process of issuing a clarification of what is durable and can withstand wear and tear or decay during normal use. Examples that have been given for durable are “etching, ink jetting, heat stamping, or mechanically attaching a plate with permanent and unique identifier.”

DOT Standards. If the crop protection product is DOT hazardous, the container into which it is filled or refilled must comply with applicable DOT regulations. If the product is not DOT hazardous, the refillable container must be designed and constructed to meet the DOT (UN) testing requirements for Packaging Group III.

Bulk Tanks. Besides containment requirements discussed in another section of the rule, bulk chemical tanks that are refilled by the product registrant are considered “refillable” containers. As with other refillable containers, the registrant must provide a description of acceptable containers and these tanks must also have a shut-off valve and vent, and no outside sight gauges are allowed.

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