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Hazmat Collection Aims to Safeguard Families and First Responders

by on April 30, 2015 6:00 AM

Got hazmat?

Then the Centre County Recycling & Refuse Authority is looking for you.

They authority will be collecting hazardous materials, toxic substances and probably some mystery gunk at the annual Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event which begins Friday morning.

There's a long list of potentially dangerous items the CCRRA is willing to accept.

"I like to term it as the 'cides,'" says Joanne Shafer, the authority's executive director and recycling coordinator. "Pesticides, Herbicides, Rodenticides -- you name it -- household chemicals that are no longer wanted or viable. Oil-based paints, anything that someone would have in their household that could be considered hazardous if improperly disposed of."

The lists of items the CCRRA will accept also includes insecticides, weed killers, pool chemicals, cleaners, poisons, corrosives, flammables, recyclable batteries, CFL lightbulbs and most other hazardous chemicals -- from households and not from commercial operations.

The authority will not accept used motor oil, antifreeze, car batteries, latex paint, radioactive or medical material, explosives or ammunition.

Just about everybody has something in their homes that could be considered hazardous or toxic, but only if it's not being used properly. Anything that's in its original container and is still being used for its intended purpose is not considered a hazardous material.

The collection sometimes attracts a big response, with cars lining up at the CCRRA collection facility located at 253 Transfer Road, just past the Nittany Mall.

"There have been as many as 1,700 cars to a low of about 500, says Shafer who thinks the number of people who turn in hazardous material has been declining in recent years. "We're getting fewer [people] and I think part of that is due to the proliferation of organic gardening," she says. "They're purchasing less [pesticides] or using alternatives."

And that's fine by Shafer who would like nothing more than to have no need for the hazmat collection. But that's not likely to happen anytime soon.

"We want to get the real bad things out [of peoples' homes]," Shafer points out. "We had someone show up with a stick of white phosphorous a couple of years ago. (According to the Centers for Disease Control website, white phosphorus can spontaneously ignite on contact with air producing toxic fumes.) "Somebody showed up with aluminum flake which is an explosive. Those are the kinds of things we really want to get out of households."

The recycling and refuse authority has also partnered with emergency planners because hazardous materials can be especially dangerous if a home catches fire. Shafer points out that area fire departments are staffed by volunteers who could be in jeopardy if hazardous materials are inside a burning building.

"We've got friends and neighbors fighting fires in peoples' homes," she says. "You get a fire situation where toxic fumes are involved. The idea is not only to protect the environment from these things ..., but the protection of emergency responders, and I'd really like to emphasize that point."

Tons of hazardous material has been collected each year. "We've had as little as 25 tons and as much as 100," says Shafer. Some of that comes from farmers who sometimes stockpile large amounts of pesticides.

The recycling and refuse authority calls in outside experts to handle the job. "We use a company called MXI," says Shafer. "They're a hazardous waste contractor. ... They will re-blend what they can -- so the oil-based paints and solvents and things like that actually get re-blended -- and then they're re-refined and they can used as fuel for things like ocean-going vessels. And the very hazardous stuff, they're licensed contractors to handle the material."

Anything that can't be recycled will be incinerated at a hazardous waste disposal facility in Arkansas.

If you're not sure whether you have something that's hazardous or toxic Shafer recommends that you call the authority at 238-7005. "If it's an unknown it should definitely be brought to the hazardous waste collection," she says. "MXI has chemists on-site who can determine what you have."

The Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event begins Friday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and continues Saturday from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.

For additional information you can visit the CCRRA website.


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Steve Bauer was the Managing Editor of Steve and his wife Trina are longtime area residents. They reside in State College along with a wacky Golden Retriever named Izzy.
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