Chemigation is the practice of applying fertilizer or agricultural chemicals to land or crops through an irrigation system. If adequate safeguards are not used, chemicals can flow back through the irrigation system into the well, polluting the groundwater.
To protect Nebraska's groundwater from possible contamination, the Legislature enacted LB284, the Chemigation Act, in the mid-1980s. The Act requires the owner of a chemigation system to obtain a permit prior to chemigating. To qualify for a permit, an irrigation system must be fitted with safety equipment to prevent backflow of chemicals into the well. All chemigation systems must be inspected and approved by the Lower Platte North NRD before an initial permit is issued. The permitholder is primarily liable for any damage resulting from chemigation.
Anyone wishing to chemigate is required to attend a certification class and pass a written exam. This includes any person who will be operating chemigation equipment, whether it is their own or that of a landowner from whom they are renting land. The law requires every new chemigation site to be inspected and approved by the NRD before a permit can be granted. To ensure compliance, sites are reinspected at least once every two years.
Printable applications for chemigation permits can be downloaded in PDF format here. If you would prefer to have a copy mailed to you, call (402) 443-4675.
$ 60.00 Per injection site for new permits
$ 30.00 Per injection site for renewal permits
Permits approved at any time during the calendar year expire on June 1st of the following year. This means new permits can be applied for at any time; however, no matter when applications are received, they will lapse on June 1st of the following year unless renewed. Renewal applications and fees must be received by the NRD by June 1st.
Emergency Permits - $120 per injection site
Emergency permits can be requested from the NRD. If the NRD has not denied an emergency permit request within 48 hours after it is filed, the permit is automatically issued. An emergency permit is only valid for 45 days.
Special Permits - $60 per injection site
Special permits may be granted to irrigation systems that don't need all of the required safety equipment. These sites must be inspected by the NRD and reviewed by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
Confirmed or suspected spills related to chemigation must be reported to the Lower Platte North NRD and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality within 24 hours. If an adverse effect is found, DEQ is empowered to take immediate steps to protect the public. DEQ is also responsible for developing a cleanup and recovery plan. The chemigation permitholder will be responsible for carrying out the cleanup with supervision from the NRD and/or DEQ.
Any permitholder who replaces or alters chemigation equipment that was previously approved by the NRD must contact the district within 72 hours. The NRD will then inspect the equipment to make sure it is functioning properly.
If pesticides are being applied through the irrigation system, signs must be posted in the fields that are being chemigated. The signs must read: "Keep Out - Chemical Application Through Irrigation System, " in letters at least 2.5" high.
Chemigation violations will be submitted to county attorneys. Penalties consist of Class I, II, III, or IV misdemeanors or a civil fine.
Before a chemigation permit can be approved, an irrigation system must be equipped with:
- Irrigation pipeline check valve - located in the pipeline between the irrigation pump and the point of chemical injection into the pipeline. It must provide a watertight seal against reverse flow. All check valves installed after Jan. 1, 1988 shall be of a certified model.
- Vacuum relief valve - located on the pipeline between the irrigation pump and the irrigation pipeline check valve.
- Inspection port - located on the pipeline between the irrigation pump and the irrigation pipeline check valve. It shall be situated in such a manner that the inlet to the low pressure drain can be observed. Often the vacuum relief valve connection can serve as the inspection port. A minimum of a four-inch-diameter orifice or viewing area is required for systems that didn't have an existing port or device prior to Jan. 1, 1988.
- Low pressure drain - located on the bottom of the pipe between the irrigation pump and the irrigation pipeline check valve. It shall have an orifice of at least 3/4 of an inch diameter and shall not extend into the horizontal pipe beyond the inside surface of the bottom of the pipe. A hose shall be used to drain any solution at least 20 feet away from the irrigation water source.
- Chemical injector check valve - located between the point of chemical injection into the irrigation pipe and the chemical injection pump. It shall have a minimum cracking pressure of 10 pounds per square inch. For water-driven injection pumps, an alternative to the minimum opening pressure is a vacuum relief valve located at the highest point in the injection line and at an elevation greater than the highest part of the chemical supply tank.
- Simultaneous interlock device - the irrigation pump and the chemical injection pump shall be interlocked so that if the pumping plant stops, the injection pump will also stop.