Ever wonder how to dispose of those old cans of paint or that broken computer monitor properly?
If you live in the Winslow area, this Saturday you can take most of your hazardous household waste to Winslow Public Works for the annual Household Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Day.
For the last 10 years, the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments has organized several household hazardous waste drop-off days throughout central Maine to provide an easy, efficient way to dispose of hazardous waste and make household waste pickup safer for public works employees.
“Generally, there’s no outlet for hazardous waste for residents,” said Ross Nason, environmental planner for KVCOG. “The program originated after public employees were getting injured picking up waste with these things in it.”
A few years ago, three Winslow public works employees had to go through a decontamination trailer after they were exposed to improperly discarded materials, according to Public Works Director Paul Fongemie.
“I think most trash workers at some point will run across a situation like that, so that’s the reason for people to properly get rid of chemicals they don’t know what to do with.”
If not properly disposed of, household hazardous waste could be dangerous if left around the home or later pollute soil and ground water.
Of the hazardous products dropped off, the most common is old paint, followed by automotive parts, gasoline and pesticides.
Fongemie said each community that participates sends some help to make sure the day runs smoothly.
“We go through quite a bit of work to set this up,” he said, “but there’s nothing more rewarding than doing something like this and having a big turnout.”
In the past, Waterville Public Works has picked up hazardous waste off the side of the road or had problems when it became mixed with the regular trash, according to Bob Gilchrist, project manager for Waterville Public Works.
“We need to get this stuff removed,” he said, adding that the cost to have a third party remove the hazardous waste is covered in the public works budget.
Waste also includes oil-based paints, lacquers, old gasoline, antifreeze, oil, batteries, photography chemicals, swimming pool chemicals and electronics. It’s a joint operation of the communities and KVCOG, with the organization taking the time to set up the event in different locations, while the municipalities pay for its residents’ waste.
The 9 a.m.-to-noon event is open to residents of Belgrade, Benton, China, Clinton, Fairfield, Oakland, Sidney, Vassalboro, Waterville and Winslow.
Residents hoping to drop off hazardous products are encouraged to fill out a registration form at their municipal office, which asks the resident to estimate how much of each product is being discarded, and the resident will be assigned a time slot for arrival.
“We try and pre-register so we know what we’re up against each year and to prevent everyone showing up right at 9,” said Bob Gilchrist, the project manager for Waterville Public Works. “As of Wednesday, we had about 20 to 30 people registered, but we usually don’t turn anyone away the day of.”
Last year’s event in Winslow brought in roughly 2,345 gallons and 1,100 pounds of hazardous waste, according to Nason.
In Maine in 2010, more than 23 million pounds of hazardous waste was generated, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection’s most recent biennial hazardous waste report.
In addition to the Waterville area drop-off Saturday, annual drop off days also occur in the Augusta area during the third Saturday in May, the Jackman region during the third Saturday in August as well as the Pittsfield and Skowhegan areas, both during the first Saturday in October. Nason said there’s usually one more impromptu event during the year.
“The most effective time to do this is when people are cleaning out basements and garages in the spring and fall,” he said.
Jesse Scardina — 861-9239