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Regional collection keeps chemicals out of environment

By Debbie Gardner

PRIME Editor

GREATER SPRINGFIELD A total of 276 residents from the towns of Hampden, Wilbraham, East Longmeadow, Longmeadow, Ludlow and Palmer participated in the annual Household Hazardous Waste Regional Collection Day, which took place at Minnechaug Regional High School on Sept. 9.

"The actual breakdown by towns was: 88 cars from East Longmeadow, 22 from Hampden, 57 from Longmeadow, 57 from Ludlow, 47 from Wilbraham and five from Palmer," said Arlene Miller, regional recycling coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

Miller, who acted as coordinator for the event, is also a member of the Longmeadow Recycling Comission.

According to Miller, all towns, with the exception of Palmer, paid the disposal cost for participating residents, which averaged $48 for 50 gallons of waste.

She said Wilbraham did require that participants display a current transfer station sticker to be exempt from the disposal fee, but that "95 percent of the people who came through had a sticker."

"Many of the people who came in to this event had two carloads or more of waste. We had a lot of pickup trucks and big SUVs; it was not unusual for us to see more than 50 gallons in one car," Miller said, adding that she was aware many residents pooled chemicals and that the number of total households who participated was "probably in excess of 300."

In addition to residents, Miller said the towns of Longmeadow and East Longmeadow each sent a DPW truck with an accumulation of various hazardous chemicals.

The use of the Minnechaug Regional High School parking lot as a collection site also allowed the school "to get rid of some very hazardous chemicals in a safe and cost-effective way," she added.

Disposal of the chemicals was handled by Clean Harbors Environmental Services, Inc. Miller said that Waste Management, which has a facility in Wilbraham, donated two rolling containers for the collection of cardboard and empty containers.

"They did that as a public service for the region and I'm very appreciative of that," Miller said.

Every little bit helps

According to Kerry Martel, household hazardous waste specialist for the Sprigfield office of Clean Harbors Environmental Services, Inc., the Sept. 9 collection yielded a typical collection of items and amounts.

"We collected approximately 17 cubic-yard boxes of oil-based paint, two cubic-yard boxes of solid pesticides ant traps, fertilizers, things like that seven 55-gallon drums of liquid pesticides, and two five-gallon and one 16-gallon drums of [lithium, nickel cadmium and lead acid] household batteries," Martel said. "The rest was various household chemicals .bleaches, kitchen cleaners, bathroom cleaners."

Martel told Reminder Publications that Clean Harbors uses various methods to dispose of the materials recovered at a hazardous waste collection.

"We recycle the batteries, incinerate the paints, water-treat some of the kitchen chemicals and stabilize the non-hazardous items," she said.

Materials that can be stabilized are later disposed of in a landfill, she added.

"The good news is that a lot of very bad chemicals were disposed of properly and were not put into the [regional] environment," Miller said. "They weren't poured down a toilet or into a stream or into our aquifer."

Miller added that the message the Mass Deptartment of Environmental Protection tries to get out to residents through these collections is "don't overbuy these chemicals. Use what you have, share [them] with neighbors and if none of these three methods work, bring [them] to us at the annual collection."

Part of a regional effort

According to Martel, the recent six-town hazardous waste collection was one of approximately "eight or nine collections" that Clean Harbors participates in nearly every weekend from April through November.

She said the Springfield field office of Clean Harbors Environmental Services, Inc, handles the region which includes Vermont, Connecticut, western Massachusetts and New York.