Hooded figures, their faces hidden by respirators, carefully unloaded chemicals from a long line of trucks and cars at the Jerome County Fairgrounds this week. The state Department of Agriculture is giving Twin Falls-area farmers and agriculture-related businesses the chance to get rid of unwanted toxic chemicals that could not legally be disposed of any other way.

Officials at first expected to collect about 3,000 pounds. But once word of the collection spread, that grew to about 16,000 pounds of pesticides from the eight-county area.The Jerome collection will cost about $100,000 and, despite a long waiting list for future ones, will be the only collection for fiscal 1994.

The disposal program was initiated in 1991 by the department's Agricultural Chemical Team to properly dispose of unwanted pesticides, said Robert Hays of the agency's education bureau.

Men from Rollins Chempak of Pacific, Wash., the company hired to load and transport the chemicals, wear protective clothing as they prepare barrels for the trip to incinerators in Louisiana, Texas and California.

The deadline for accepting The hazardous waste was noon Thursday. After the project is completed, names of owners of the chemicals will be destroyed and will remain anonymous.

"No actions will ever be taken against them for having the chemicals," said Beth Williams, a state specialist.

Police departments were advised the pesticides would be transported over area highways, but no objections were received.

Two layers of plastic cover the area where the crews are handling the chemicals.

"We tested the soil before we started and will test it again when we're done to be sure there is no contamination," Mr. Hays said.