By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Twelve years is a long time to hold on to household hazardous waste (HHW) materials waiting for a proper way to dispose of them.
The wait is finally over for Limestone County residents who have not had a household hazardous waste collection since 2008, and that was the first for Limestone County. On August 29 from 8 a.m. to noon, Limestone County residents can bring HHW items to the Athens Middle School parking lot (the old high school on Hwy. 31) for disposal, free of charge.
Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful has been working closely with the Solid Waste Disposal Authority of Athens and Limestone County to procure funding to cover this event. The Limestone County Commission has also designated funds to utilize if the event goes over the budgeted $35,000.
KALB has also been working closely with the Solid Waste Disposal Authority of the City of Huntsville (SWDA) in planning this event. “The SWDA has a drop-off facility for Madison County residents and has a great relationship with Clean Harbors, the company that will be handling the waste brought to our event,” said Leigh Patterson, KALB’s new executive coordinator. “The SWDA has been very generous with their help and we are very grateful.”
Lynne Hart, recently retired KALB executive coordinator, has been diligently working toward having an HHW collection for Limestone County residents since 2008. “The biggest hurdle has been the cost,” said Hart. “Commission Chairman Colin Daly and Mayor Ronnie Marks have been very instrumental in finding the funding that is allowing us to offer this service.” KALB and city and county officials are hopeful that this service will be provided more frequently than in the past.
KALB is grateful to residents who have held on to their HHW materials and have not resorted to improper disposal out of frustration. A survey taken in 2019 showed that some people have dumped these chemicals down the drain or in a ditch, burned them, or have hidden them in their household trash. Limestone County residents should definitely take advantage of this opportunity to dispose of these items correctly.
An incident that occurred in the summer of 2019 brought awareness to the problem of there being no proper way to dispose of HHW materials in Limestone County.
Last summer Keri Chalmers, assistant manager at the Athens-Limestone Recycling Center, received a call from someone letting her know that a mother cat and four very tiny kittens were injured when someone dumped oil-based paint and lacquer thinner down a storm drain. The mother was using the storm drain as a refuge for her new family. Keri, who is an animal lover, took in three of the kittens in an attempt to save them. The fourth kitten was never found.
Keri named them Wynken, Blynken, and Nod from a well-known children’s poem. Sadly, Blynken could not be saved and died within 48 hours of the incident. Wynken, or Wynk as she is affectionately called, was in bad shape and became the “poster child” for the seriousness of a lack of proper disposal options for these chemicals.
Disposing of household hazardous waste improperly is not a victimless crime. When something is dumped or disposed of improperly it doesn’t just “go away.” It goes somewhere. Groundwater, air, and soil are polluted with chemicals that people dump in ditches, pour down drains, or burn. As we have seen with the feline family, animals and people can be seriously injured. Hiding HHW in trash containers can cause serious problems as well. Mixing some chemicals together can cause toxic fumes, fire, or even explosions. When trash trucks compress trash, cans and bottle break open and chemicals can mix.
- Paint and Related Products such as oil or water-based paints, mineral spirits, turpentine and thinners, furniture strippers, paint removers, stains, aerosols.
- Automotive Products such as transmission fluid, brake fluid, anti-freeze (motor oil should be taken to the Athens-Limestone Recycling Center on Lucas Ferry Rd. for recycling).
- Household Cleaners such as oven cleaners, toilet cleaners, disinfectants, drain cleaners, rug and upholstery cleaners, floor and furniture polishes, ammonia or bleach-based products.
- Household Chemicals such as acids, pool chemicals, solvents, mercury thermometers and thermostats, fluorescent lights.
MATERIALS NOT ACCEPTED
- Radioactive or Biological Waste
Please try to bring materials in their original containers. If the containers are damaged, please put them in a box that has been lined with two garbage bags or in a container with a lid. If your household wastes are leaking, put the box or container in cat litter, sawdust, or other similar absorbent materials for transport.
If you are unsure about something you have, give KALB a call at 256-233-8000 and they will get an answer for you.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner