August 13, 2008

Hazardous waste service inadequate

As published in The Erin Advocate

As a dedicated saver of the planet, I have been obliged in recent years to set up my own Hazardous Waste Depot. It is also known as my garage.

So it is with some eagerness that I await the annual Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Event Day, hosted by Wellington County staff.

I missed the event last year, so I will be bringing two years’ worth of toxic material to the Centre 2000 parking lot, on Boland Drive in Erin, this Saturday, August 16, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There is no charge.

The cars and trucks will be lined up, loaded with old motor oil, compact fluorescent light bulbs, latex and oil-based paint, automotive and household batteries, medical sharps, glue, gasoline, pesticide, drugs, mercury thermometers, cleaners, antifreeze, propane tanks and aerosol cans, to name only a few. (Check the Solid Waste Services page at for a full list.)

Of course, I could always drive my HHW to the City of Guelph HHW Depot, formerly the Wet-Dry facility, at 110 Dunlop Drive, Tuesday through Saturday. (Call 519-767-0598 or visit for details.)

But I don’t have a large quantity of HHW, and it is just not worth a special drive to Guelph. I also do not illegally burn it, dump it in the ditch or throw it in with the regular garbage.

If I lived in another part of Wellington County, I could bring a certain amount of HHW to my local transfer station or landfill site (Aberfoyle, Belwood, Elora, Harriston or Riverstown) throughout the year. I am also welcome to drive to these other stations and use them at no charge.

These locations are set up as “Selected HHW Depots”, and will accept ONLY: Automotive Motor Oil and Filters, Antifreeze, Batteries, Aerosol Cans, Propane Cylinders and Medical Sharps.

The Hillsburgh and Rothsay Transfer Stations are the only ones that do not take any hazardous waste. County Councillor Lou Maieron is surprised at the inconsistency.

“It is unfair that the eastern portion of the county is not serviced,” said Maieron. “They should give us the same standard of service. People are definitely paying enough in taxes.”

The councillor has long advocated a comprehensive waste plan that would include rural collection, composting and local drop-off of household hazardous waste. There is a rural collection pilot project for regular garbage and recyclables being conducted in Guelph/Eramosa and Minto, and County Council will decide this October whether to expand it to other areas.

Meanwhile, there has been protracted wrangling about whether the Hillsburgh Transfer Station will stay at or near its current location. I have not been able to find out if that debate has affected the question of making the Hillsburgh station a Selected HHW Depot.

The facilities to handle limited types of hazardous waste would be inexpensive, and easily moved if a new location was established elsewhere, according to Councillor Maieron.

Hillsburgh is the second-busiest station in the County, which means that a year-round depot could divert a significant volume of hazardous waste from residential garages, or from improper disposal.

“If you make it convenient, people will use it,” said Maieron.

If a community is to treat environmental protection seriously, once a year for hazardous waste is not enough.

Here are a few more pertinent facts for handling your HHW.

• Alkaline batteries up to size D can also be disposed of in special tubes located at all County libraries.

• The County does not accept industrial, commercial or agricultural hazardous waste. If you live on a farm, only the household portion of your hazardous waste can be dropped off.

• Do not bring empty containers to the HHW event, even if they previously held paint, oil or pesticide. Treat them as regular garbage or as recyclable plastic. Let any wet empty paint cans or brushes dry out, leave the lids off and put them with regular garbage.

• If you have medical sharps (needles, syringes, lancets), put them in a rigid puncture-proof plastic container (like a bleach bottle) labeled “SHARPS”. Soak them in bleach for 24 hours, pour off the bleach, seal the container and tell the attendant that you have it.

Call Solid Waste Services at 519-837-2601 for more information.

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