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Waukesha County's waste efforts become hazardous

County needs public help in Muskego and elsewhere to get program's costs under control

Dec. 20, 2013

Muskego — It's not unusual for the countywide household hazardous waste disposal program to run in the red, but eventually something has to give.

With the program finishing the year $40,000 in the hole, Waukesha County has begun identifying ways to manage it more tightly, said Rebecca Mattano, solid waste supervisor.

"We are exceeding the budget so rapidly, we need to look at the best option," she said. "It's fairly serious."

The county manages the program in part through the Advance Disposal Emerald Park Landfill Standing Committee, a coalition which includes Muskego and the towns of Norway and Raymond.

The closest sites for local residents are Jensen Environmental Management, S6347 College Court, Muskego, open from 8 a.m. to noon the first and third Saturdays of the month, and the Waste Management metro hazardous waste dropoff site, 10518 S. 124th St., Franklin, open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday.

Convenient, less costly

Among the options the committee and county are examining is reducing the hours the dropoff sites are open.

The goal is to find a way for the program to live within its means while keeping the service convenient, Mattano said. Hazardous waste officials don't want people to go back to tossing hazardous waste into the trash and it ends up in regular landfills.

Mark Slocomb, landfill committee chairman, recalls even worse things happening with hazardous waste.

"The number one goal is to keep it out of ditches," Slocumb said.

The second goal is to keep it out of regular landfills because sooner or later, perhaps not until 100 years from now, all landfills will leak, he said.

Slocomb said he doubts that any drop-off sites will be closed. It's more likely that hours would be cut before the site is closed, he predicted.

Reducing waste flow

The ideal would be to reduce the need to drop off household hazardous waste, Mattano said.

That could easily happen if people bought products that don't contain hazardous substances when they have a choice, she said.

If there is a choice, she said it would be helpful if people didn't buy products that say "flammable," "combustible" or "contains petroleum distillates" on the label. Also she recommended avoiding products with acetone, xylene and methylene chloride.

Another way people can help reduce household hazardous waste costs is by doing their "shopping" at the free exchange at the Franklin dropoff site, she said. Sometimes people get rid of partly filled bottles and bags of products that haven't expired. Those go onto the exchange shelf, free to anyone.

The selection is very limited and depends on what is turned in, but the kinds of things available include paint strippers, fertilizer, pesticides, pool chemicals and oil-based paint, Mattano said.

Budget challenges

But the budget problem has not arisen because people are taking more hazardous waste to the dropoff sites. Rather it is because the cost of dealing with the waste has gone up, Mattano said.

Added to that is the financial cushion that the program started with in 2002 is now gone, she said.

The program started with extra money from the Advanced Disposal Emerald Park Landfill, which also contributes $156,000 annually toward it. But that cushion was gone as of this summer, Mattano said.

For the last 10 years, the household hazardous waste program has had an annual budget of about $281,000, Mattano said. Of those 10 years, seven ended in the red, usually more than $19,000.

The program is paid for with the annual $156,000 contribution by the landfill and with county money. The county has been picking up the overages, she said.

AT A GLANCE

Things that should be taken to household hazardous waste dropoff sites include:

·Household: polish and spot removers, adhesives and glues with the words "flammable," "combustible" or "contains petroleum distillates" on the label plus acetone, xylene, and methylene chloride, artist and hobby paint, floor/wax stripper, compact fluorescent bulbs and lamps, metal cleaners, mothballs, thermometers

·Home improvement: concrete cleaner (acid), furniture stripper, lead-based paint, oil-based paint, paint remover, paint thinner/turpentine, stain, varnish, lacquer, wood preservatives

·Yard: fertilizer with weed killer, insect or bug killer, pool chemicals, rat poison, weed killer

·Automotive: antifreeze, brake cleaner, carburetor cleaner, degreasers, fuel additives, gasoline, fuels, road flares

WHAT TO DO

The Household Hazardous Waste program suggests ways residents can take to help keep disposal costs down:

· Avoid buying products that say "flammable," "combustible" or "contains petroleum distillates" on the label. Also avoid products with acetone, xylene and methylene chloride.

· Avoid hazardous chemicals by using natural cleaners and natural gardening practices.

· When purchasing paint, buy only what is needed and avoid oil-based paints when possible.

· Take motor oil, oil filters and antifreeze to municipal sites.

· Take rechargeable batteries and spent compact fluorescent bulbs to recycle at local retail stores.

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