Household hazardous waste collection protects local environment, waterways
Residents asked to take advantage of annual drop-off on Saturday
During the annual Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off collection event last fall, Routt County Environmental Health collected 2,300 pounds of hazardous waste and 3,300 pounds of paint.
And that was on a bad weather day that hampered turnout.
So, this year’s collection event from 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Oct. 8, at Steamboat Springs Middle School parking lot could result in a large haul.
This is the one of the few times of the year Routt County residents can properly dispose of many chemicals that are not allowed in the trash or landfill because they can be poisonous, toxic, flammable, corrosive, reactive or caustic.
“We don’t want hazardous liquids coming through the landfill. If we find hazardous liquids in your trash, we will send it back with you,” said Greg Underwood, compliance officer for Twin Enviro and the Milner landfill. “If we are not able to catch the liquids, there is the possibly of it leaching into the ground water and contaminating the Yampa River.”
While tires, refrigerators and car batteries are some of the larger hazardous items the landfill staff often catches, household cleaners and paints might slip through.
“It’s difficult for us to catch those household hazardous items coming into the landfill,” Underwood said. “The public needs to dispose of things properly.”
Household hazardous items are not allowed to be poured down sinks, toilets, sewer drains or ditches.
Steamboat Springs Stormwater Specialist Scott Slamal said some hazardous materials that unfortunately are poured into gutters that lead to storm drains and thus into local waterways range from paint from washing brushes, to cleaners from restaurant mop buckets or carpet cleaning, to oil leaks from vehicles. Residents can report a possible illicit discharge by emailing Stormwater@SteamboatSprings.net.
The Saturday collection will accept waste for small fees but is not intended to accommodate large amounts from businesses. Residents are asked to keep hazardous waste in its original, labeled containers and not mix chemicals.
Paints, stains and paint-related products can be dropped off for free through the Paint Care statewide program that is funded by a small fee at the time of purchase.
Some of the other examples of what will be accepted include gasoline, kerosene, roofing tar, lighter fluid, acetone, acids, drain cleaners, deck wash, lye, aerosols, caustic cleaners, bleach, chlorine, pool chemical, carburetor cleaners, pesticides and fertilizers.
“We always encourage homeowners to use the least amounts of fertilizers and pesticides because of the potential to run into our creeks and rivers,” Slamal noted.
Slamal said dumping chemicals down a toilet or sink is not acceptable because the local wastewater treatment plant may not be able to treat those chemicals or they may cause problems at the plant.
The nonprofit Yampatika is one local organization helping to educate about the importance of proper disposal of hazardous waste through the Western Slope’s “Keep It Clean, ‘Cause We’re All Downstream” campaign, which Yampatika joined in August.
Yampatika’s Water Education Coordinator Halie Cunningham said the “convenience factor” of a readily accessible trash can or dumpster is a temptation for residents.
“To do the right thing, it needs to be a convenient, but trash is our most convenient, unfortunately,” Cunningham said.
“Household hazardous waste is often items that get put in our cupboard and collects spider webs, but these are toxic materials that we don’t want to dump down the drain or dump outside,” Cunningham said. “Living in a river valley, our water sources are close to us. There is a connection to what we waste and our water quality.”
“The goal of the Keep It Clean campaign is to raise awareness about non-point-source (widely distributed) pollution that we all contribute to in small or large quantities that we don’t always realize we are doing. But because it is so widespread, we don’t always realize the impact we have on our watershed,” Cunningham said.
Ryan Welch, operations manager at At Your Door Special Collections division of Waste Management and a vendor Saturday, said businesses with larger collection needs can schedule far in advance for a commercial pickup of hazardous waste.
Welch noted that some collected waste such as gasoline can be recycled for reuse as fuel at cement kilns or are taken to landfills that are certified and permitted for household waste.
He said hazardous waste thrown into residential curbside trash may combine with other chemicals in a trash truck and lead to truck fires, splashing dangers for waste employees or hazardous leaks out of trucks.
For drop-off questions, contact Routt County Department of Environmental Health at E-Health@co.routt.co.us.
To find out where to recycle other items year-round, visit YampaValleyRecycles.org.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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