2009-10-08 / Features

Conservation Corner

Household Hazardous Waste Collection
By Greg Reineke CONSERVATION DISTRICT

On Saturday, October 24, the Fulton County Conservation District, in conjunction with the PA Department of Environmental Protection, and the Bedford, Huntingdon and Fulton County commissioners, will host a household hazardous waste collection event. This collection will be held in front of the Fulton County Medical Services (Penn’s Village shopping center) from 9 a.m. to1 p.m. In addition to household hazardous waste, agricultural pesticide (fungicides, insecticides, herbicides) wastes will also be accepted, as will compact and regular fluorescent bulbs/tubes.

What are household hazardous wastes (HHW) and why be concerned about their proper disposal? As the name implies, household hazardous wastes are those wastes produced by households that are hazardous in nature. They might be materials which are corrosive, flammable, toxic, are potent oxidizes, or present hazards to wildlife and air or water quality. Since these wastes typically are produced in limited quantities by households, they are not regulated as hazardous under federal and state laws. However, they can still create environmental and public health hazards.

Some examples of HHW are old oil-based paints and stains, pesticides, pool chemicals, drain cleaners, degreasers, car-care products, used oil, batteries, old gasoline, kerosene, paint thinners, stains, paint stripper, and other household products. A good way to tell if what you have under your sink, or stored in the garage or shed, is hazardous, is to read all labels. Statements such as “corrosive- avoid contact with skin or eyes,” “Danger/poison,” “Warning-keep out of reach of children,” “Warning- strong oxidizer,” or “Extremely flammable,” are indications of hazardous material. However, it’s important to realize that absence of a warning label does not necessarily mean that the product is safe.

Improper disposal of household hazardous waste can lead to public health and environmen- tal hazards. Burning HHW at home (open burning) can be especially harmful and could lead to explosions, dangerous air emissions and toxic ash. Disposal of HHW by dumping them on the ground can lead to contamination of groundwater (well water) and local streams. Vapors from certain products are hazardous to breath and can contribute to air pollution. Improper handling, use and disposal of HHW can also lead to health effects such as irritated skin, watery eyes, burns, poisoning or even cancer. Even disposal of HHW in through trash collection can contribute to problems at the ultimate disposal site (typically a landfill).

The best way to deal with HHW is, of course, to avoid creating it. Select the least toxic product possible. Buy only as much as you need. If you have leftover material, perhaps someone else could use it. Take used oil to collection sites. (The conservation district has a list of these.) Take lead acid batteries back to the place where you bought them. If, after all of this, you still have HHW, bring the material to the county’s HHW collection event on October 24. Perhaps you bought a home/farm where various hazardous products were left behind by the former owner; bring them to the collection day rather than burning or dumping the material.

As noted, since certain pesticides present such a hazard to fish, wildlife, and humans, this year’s collection will also accept unwanted pesticides. Especially important pesticides to bring in for proper disposal and treatment are the old chlorinated pesticides such as DDT, chlordane, dieldrin, heptachlor, etc. Please handle this material very carefully.

Fluorescent lights, whether regular tubes or the compact fluorescent bulbs, are extremely energy efficient, but their disposal can be somewhat of a problem. Given that fluorescent bulbs/tubes contain small amounts of mercury, they should not be thrown in household trash. Unwanted, unbroken fluorescent bulbs can be brought to the HHW collection on October 24 for proper disposal.

The household hazardous waste and unwanted pesticide collection will only be offered once this year. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the HHW collection day, please contact Greg Reineke at the Fulton County Conservation District (717-485-3547, ext. 120).

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