Developing Former Agricultural Land? Plan on Looking for Pesticides


For real estate developers, yesterday’s farms and orchards are tomorrow’s industrial park, school or residential development. Redevelopment of former agricultural lands, as it turns out, is also a new focus for the Oregon Department of Environment Quality (“DEQ”). The reason for DEQ’s new-found attention is that farms and orchards often contain traces of legacy pesticides that, although now banned, were legally applied to crops years ago. DDT, aldrin, chlordane and dieldrin, to name a few, are persistent organic pollutants that remain in soils just short of forever

and potentially affect human health and ecological receptors. Bringing the pesticide issue front and center for Oregon developers and owners is a January 2006 DEQ guidance document entitled, “Guidance for Evaluating Residual Pesticides on Lands Formerly Used for Agricultural

Production” (

Pre-Guidance — Covered or Not Covered?

Before DEQ issued the guidelines, sellers and buyers often were in the dark about how much to investigate for prior legal use of pesticides and, if they found residual pesticides, to what extent they would be required to conduct a cleanup. DEQ appeared to take the position that cleanup was necessary even if pesticides had been legally applied in the past, but it was willing to modify

that approach if data showed residual pesticides did not present a risk of harm to potential receptors.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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