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Household waste event draws a large turnout

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Cars streamed through the Hazardous Waste Collection Event April 20 at Hood River County Public Works facility.

Household waste, ranging from old paint to fluorescent tubes, was removed cars and pick-ups by white-suited workers and placed on heavy-duty carts, then sorted and safely sealed for recycling, reuse, or disposal.

The Department of Environmental Quality reported "a very large turnout" of 314 cars at Saturday's free event.

Spokesman Bruce Lumper said that a number of large loads helped contribute to a total collected waste of 38,373 pounds, or approximately 19.2 tons.

Volunteers from OSU Extension Service guided drivers through the public works grounds, and into three lanes with tarpaulins overhead and covering the ground.

"Please stay in your car," workers told each driver, and whisked away the boxes, cans and jugs. With a quick "thank you" drivers were directed away and workers rolled the waste under an equipment shed. There, more workers poured or tossed solvents, aerosols, paints and other substances into waiting barrels and dumpsters. Some intact containers of motor oil, spray paint and other items were taken to a nearby table to be given away.

A typical load was a trunkload of rusty old paint cans, Lumper said. Some surprises turned up.

"Sorry, sir, we can't accept your microwave," a worker told one client.

One family of four dropped off one bag of batteries, stating that it was their only opportunity to unload the toxic energy packs.

In addition to the collection vent, there was a collection event on April 19 for pesticide wastes from local agriculture and small businesses and government agencies that produce small amounts of hazardous wastes known as Conditionally Exempt Generators or CEGs.

"This event was also well attended with 30 paid participants," Lumber said. A total of 7,520 pounds of waste was collected Friday.

About 56.2 percent of the waste collected on Saturday was latex and oil-based paint, 11.3 percent was petroleum products such as waste oil, anti-freeze accounted for 3.1 percent and aerosols (both paint and pesticide type aerosols) accounted for 3.3 percent. The remaining 25 percent of waste collected was made up of batteries (nickel cadmium, alkaline, and lead-acid), household cleaners, yard and garden chemicals/pesticides, fluorescent light tubes and ballasts, mercury and compressed gases.

A thermometer exchange was conducted in conjunction with the event. Sixty-five mercury thermometers were collected. Households received a digital thermometer in exchange for their mercury thermometer.

In addition to accepting waste brought to the event, the Department handed out educational literature to participants about the purchasing, management and disposal of hazardous household products, natural gardening, and mercury.

About 12 percent of the waste is recycled, approximately 57 percent is burned for fuel (this includes the oil-based paint, solvents, gasoline/motor oil/diesel fuel, and non-pesticide aerosols), approximately 18 percent is disposed of in a hazardous waste landfill (mainly non-recyclable latex paint), four percent is neutralized and disposed of at wastewater treatment works (acids and bases), and nine percent is destroyed by incineration at a hazardous waste incinerator (this includes pesticides and poisons).

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