Disposing of household hazardous waste made simple New site for collection is key to commissioners' 20-year composting plan

September 15, 1996|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Martin Schmidt of Finksburg brought gasoline that seemed to be clogging up his lawn mower.

Gene Aldrich of Uniontown came to get rid of cans of leftover paint.

Someone else brought paint stripper in a delicate bottle made for perfume.

Instead of dumping those substances in a landfill, these residents and others are taking such waste to Carroll County's newly opened household hazardous waste collection site, a fenced-in pavilion at the county's Northern Landfill outside Westminster.

Since its opening July 11, 34 55-gallon steel drums have been filled with substances such as paint, turpentine, charcoal starter, driveway sealant, insecticides and kerosene.

The county has barred hazardous household materials from its landfill. And trash haulers who serve county residents are no longer allowed to pick up such waste.

The household waste collection site is important to the Board of County Commissioners' plan to use a method of composting to dispose of trash over the next 20 years.

"We've got to get that [hazardous] material out of the waste stream" to operate a successful composting program, said Jack Curran, coordinator of special projects.

The commissioners are considering building a $33 million plant that will turn garbage, mixed with sludge, into potting soil. The state-of-the-art facility, using a process in use elsewhere in the country, was chosen as a viable trash-removal alternative by the county's Public Works Department.

During the composting process, sludge is mixed with trash to produce microbes that reduce the garbage to dirt within three days. Nonbiodegradables such as plastic and metal are filtered out and recycled.

Carroll's household hazardous waste collection is designed to be a simple operation.

Exterior and interior paints, which make up about 70 percent of the collected material, go into a machine that empties the paint into a drum and crushes paint cans. Spray paint goes into another machine that draws off the aerosol propellant through a carbon filter and releases it into the air.

Oil-based paint is designated a hazardous waste, but latex paint is not, Curran said.

The difference isn't widely understood, so the pavilion gets a lot of latex paint.

"We're taking latex as a convenience to people," Curran said. "Rather than have people try to distinguish, we'll take it."

Drums of paint are shipped to a hazardous waste processing facility for incineration, Curran said. Metal cans can be incinerated at Baltimore's Bresco plant.

Charcoal starter, paint thinner, kerosene and diesel fuel are mixed in drums for reuse as fuel.

"Mystery" items that can't be identified are isolated on a special pallet. The county's hazardous waste transport contractor has the items analyzed for proper disposal.

Although Schmidt wasn't able to dispose of the gasoline (because he didn't want to leave it in the container, as required), he applauded the collection site.

"I'm glad they're doing this, so people have someplace to take [waste] instead of getting rid of it the wrong way," he said.

Expanded hours would be helpful to working people, Schmidt suggested.

He found it difficult to leave his job during the site's operating hours, which are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursdays only.

Curran said he plans to extend hours after the pavilion has been open for a few months and he has a chance to assess the operation.

The pavilion is staffed by county landfill workers who have had special training in handling hazardous materials.

The county doesn't have a firm budget for the household program.

Its contract to transport the materials to hazardous waste facilities is based on the number of barrels and other containers shipped out.

Curran expects the program's annual cost to be less than that of the county's previous household hazardous waste collection days.

Those special events, in which county residents were allowed to bring hazardous items for disposal on a designated day, cost about $32,000 each, he said.

Pub Date: 9/15/96

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