Baltimore household hazards go to waste Residents, groups ditch paint, batteries at collection points

November 16, 1997|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,SUN STAFF

For congregants of one Baltimore church, yesterday's citywide Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day was a godsend -- a chance to cleanse their building of all the solvents, sprays and nasty spirits lurking there.

"We knew there had to be a way to get rid of this stuff without throwing it out in the regular trash," said Kenton Bontrager of the North Baltimore Mennonite Church in Roland Park.

So Bontrager gathered the waste in a pickup truck and took it to a collection site outside Western High School, where it was sorted and carted off for recycling or safe disposal.

"That's a lot better than having it wind up in the Jones Falls," he said.

Twice a year, since 1995, the Department of Public Works has afforded the public the opportunity to dispose of paints, pesticides and other hazardous products at one of two drop-off points -- parking lots at Western High School and Memorial Stadium.

The spring cleanup netted more than 44,000 pounds of materials, and city officials hoped yesterday's haul -- on America Recycles Day -- would match it.

"People are becoming more environmentally aware of what they don't want going into their streams and landfills," said Cynthia Noel, a Public Works employee who helped run the reclamation site at Western High.

Homeowners wasted no time turning in their toxins.

Cindy Chrystal arrived before the cleanup began at 9 a.m. Her cargo: eight gallons of old paint rescued from a hall closet and a bag of lifeless AA batteries.

"Next time, I'll remember to bring the old floor polish that my mother gave me 12 years ago," she said.

Business was brisk early on.

John Schreiber of Hamilton junked three automobile batteries that had been gathering rust beneath his front porch. Charles Miller discarded murky containers of used motor oil from his garage in Roland Park. And Dave Michel purged his home of the poisons holed up there since the Orioles were world champions.

"It always bugged me that these pesticides were sitting in the basement," said Michel, a retired minister from West Baltimore. "But what do you do with stuff that's bad for the environment? You hang on to it."

Turn-ins ran the gamut, from a bag of African violet fertilizer to a container of liquid asbestos. Antifreeze and turpentine moved well, as did furniture strippers.

"We've seen everything [over the years] from old ammunition to tear-gas grenades," said David Mundt, field operations supervisor for Laidlaw Environmental Services of Laurel, which collected yesterday's waste. More often, he said, what arrives are paints.

Peggy Denning of White Marsh showed off a one-gallon can carrying a faded $6 sticker. "That's how old it is," she said of the price. "But better it end up here than in a woods or stream."

Pub Date: 11/16/97

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