by Michael J. Garland, P.E., Director of Environmental Services for Monroe County, New York
Leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable, or reactive ingredients are considered to be “household hazardous waste” or “HHW”. Products, such as paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, and pesticides that contain potentially hazardous ingredients require special care. Improper management of HHW can include pouring them down the drain, on the ground, into storm sewers, or in some cases putting them out at the curb. The dangers of such methods might not be immediately obvious, but improper disposal of these wastes can pollute the environment and pose a threat to human health. To help prevent these types of things from happening, Monroe County has accepted these materials through their household hazardous waste program since the program started in 1991.
While the County’s programs were effective, the County strived to substantially reduce the negative impacts to human health and the environment that resulted from the improper management of such materials. The Monroe County Department of Environmental Services (DES) has a long history of innovative environmental protection efforts, both internally and with private-sector partners, such as Waste Management of New York, LLC (WMNY). Both DES and WMNY received countless inquiries from residents and customers regarding the availability of outlets for environmentally-friendly methods of diverting a wide variety of solid waste from landfills. In order to best address the community’s growing need for this type of unique resource, DES and WMNY embarked on a five-month public/private journey to form one of the nation’s first-ever one-stop drop-off facilities for difficult-to-manage recyclables, electronics and other materials and proper disposal of HHW materials and pharmaceutical waste: the ecopark.
Prior to getting the ecopark off the ground, Monroe County developed an alternatives analysis to determine the most cost effective and efficient approach for continued handling of HHW in Monroe County. Through this process, the County identified an underutilized solid waste and recyclables transfer station owned by WMNY, located on Avion Drive near the Greater Rochester International Airport as a possible location for a HHW collection facility. The County had a long-standing relationship with WMNY to provide solid waste management services to the residents of Monroe County, and was currently partnering with WMNY to utilize property adjacent to the Avion Drive facility for a yard waste composting facility. With this in mind, the County approached WMNY with the idea of utilizing the Avion Drive facility for HHW collection purposes. After discussions between both parties regarding this possibility, it became evident that both had even bigger ideas for utilization of this large structure in order to provide a higher level of service to the community and to further protect the environment.
In 2012, 24 ecopark Household Hazardous Waste Collections served 3,995 in Monroe County (twice a month). The following quantities were collected and properly managed in association with the Household Hazardous Waste Facility during 2012:
- Antifreeze- 1,100 gallons
- Hazardous paint- 14,140 gallons
- Solid pesticides- 29,789 pounds
- Liquid pesticides- 1,920 gallons
- Mercury containing devices- 1,250 pounds
- Fluorescent bulbs- 9,540 pounds
- Other HHW solids- 79,865 pounds
- Other HHW liquids- 13,629 gallons
- Miscellaneous Solid Waste- 62,500 pounds
- Pharmaceutical Waste: 3,203 pounds
With sustainability and material recovery at the forefront of solid waste management, the ecopark fulfills a vital community need by providing residents with a central, one stop-drop off location for materials, such as HHW, that may not be handled conveniently curbside. With its development, the ecopark allows for non-traditional reuse/recycling or proper management of these materials. The advent of the ecopark was unique in many aspects and presented many challenges and opportunities from conception to completion. Most notably was the strong public/private partnership between Monroe County and WMNY and the sharing of ideas that minimally impacted the local taxpayers. Additional partners included Barton & Loguidice, P.C., the permitting and design engineer, and Wolcott Contracting and Consulting, the primary contractor.