Household hazardous waste finds a home


News editor

May 17, 2006

A crushed AA battery lay on the road near Erwin Swetnam’s feet Monday.

It was hardly surprising, given that Swetnam stood just inside the gate of Hood River Garbage Service transfer station, a facility he manages.

But by this summer, batteries won’t have to go into the garbage anymore, or wind up ground up in the gravel.

Paint, chemicals, solvents and other harmful substances can be safely disposed of in the new Household Hazardous Waste Facility, now being installed at the transfer station.

The first collection date is tentatively scheduled for July 8, according to recycling coordinator Cissy Ramos.

“The household hazardous waste site is going to accommodate things that are toxic or need special handling such as paints — lead-based — and pesticides, and cadmium batteries A, B, C, and D, cell batteries,” Ramos said.

Swetnam, Ramos and other transfer station staff watched as Cherokee General Contractors of Portland and Honald Crane Service of The Dalles lifted the 15,000-pound waste storage unit, a three-section modular structure designed to storehouse chemicals until they can be safely packaged and transported to incineration, recycling or other disposal. It has been paid for over the past three years by a 45-cent surcharge on every 32-gallon can of garbage brought to the transfer station. The facility was built in Los Angeles by Environmental Compliance Products.

“It’s a turnkey waste storage facility,” said Mark Ressler, Cherokee project engineer.

“This definitely adds a new wrinkle to all that we do out here,” said Swetnam of the household waste facility’s placement inside the gated compound where area residents bring garbage as well as recyclable paper, glass, cardboard, aluminum and tin cans, scrap metal, yard waste, and other products.

Next to the transfer station shed rests the recently-added drop station for reusable building materials, the Garbage Service’s new partnership with the nonprofit Gorge Rebuild-It Center.

The household waste facility is located just inside the gate of the transfer station. It will be put to use roughly six times a year in publicized “household hazardous waste events” coordinated through Hood River County and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, offered free of charge, according to Swetnam. Such events have been held in Hood River County periodically, but the $300,000 waste station gives the community a permanent location for the service.

“It's going to be really a nice service to the county having this facility here,” Swetnam said. He noted, however, that latex paint is not among the household waste products that will be accepted at the facility. How, then, to dispose of it?

“Paint, and repaint,” he said. “Donate it, or open the can and let it dry out.” Then, toss out the can.

Swetnam said that the community can now start storing up household hazardous wastes, aside from the latex, assured of a place to safely dispose of it. When the facility goes into use, the three bright quadrants labeling each section will be color-coded to signify which types of substances can be stored together in each compartment.

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