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Wolfeboro leads the way in waste disposal

Household Hazardous Waste facility turns 10 in 2012

SITE COORDINATOR SARAH SILK assists a resident in disposing of hazardous materials last Saturday, July 16, at the Lakes Region Household Hazardous Waste Product Facility at 404 Beach Pond Road in Wolfeboro as Amy Capone-Muccio takes a survey from the next car in line. (Thomas Beeler photo) (click for larger version)
July 21, 2011
WOLFEBORO — The town of Wolfeboro not only leads the state in recycling but is also the leader in the safe disposal of hazardous wastes and unwanted medications.

On June 6 Solid Waste Manager Adam Tasker accepted an award from the Northeast Resource Recovery Association (NRRA) to the town for utilizing the greatest number of recycling programs offered by the association in 2010. Last year the town used 16 NRRA programs to recycle 1,969 tons of material or 629 pounds per resident, the highest rate in the state.

This was the third recycling award in as many years for the town. In 2009 and 2010 the town was recognized as recycling the most tonnage for a town its size in the state.

Recycling materials not only generates income for the town (a total of $127,345 in 2010), but it also reduces the cost of waste disposal, avoiding an additional $147,000 in disposal charges.

Equally important but less well known is the town's leadership in removing hazardous materials from the waste stream and safely disposing of them.

Household hazardous waste

Wolfeboro was an early joiner in the movement to remove hazardous materials from household trash. Hazardous materials include household chemicals, pesticides and herbicides, acids and solvents, antifreeze, gasoline, pool chemicals and oil-based paints materials that would pollute a landfill if buried. Originally batteries and waste oil were also treated as hazardous but are now accepted at the transfer station on Beach Pond Road, where they are recycled.

According to Selectman Sarah Silk, who has been Wolfeboro's site coordinator for household hazardous waste disposal since 1990, there used to be nine sites around the lake collecting hazardous waste once a year from residents in 27 towns in the Lakes Region Planning Commission. Wolfeboro's site was originally at the transfer station, but in 1990, when Silk became involved during her first term as selectman, the site was moved to the Public Works garage on Route 109A. That site was better because it was paved and allowed cars to be formed into four lines to get them off Route 109A. While waiting in line residents were surveyed about what they were bringing and how they learned about the program. The four lines were merged into two and trained personnel from a certified hazardous waste hauler would remove the material from the car and place it in appropriate containers for later processing. At one point, according to Silk, one car was processed every 30 seconds, thanks to the improved vehicle flow.

In 2002 the Lakes Region Planning Commission won a $65,000 grant to build a permanent household hazardous waste facility where hazardous material could be taken in more frequently. Wolfeboro taxpayers pitched in $20,000 and the town entered into a 10-year agreement with Alton to build and operate the Lakes Region Household Hazardous Waste Product Facility in Wolfeboro at 404 Beach Pond Road, just down the hill from the transfer station. The first hazardous waste collection at the new facility was held in October 2002.

Beginning in 2003, thanks to having the permanent facility, hazardous waste collections increased from once a year to six times a year, on the third Saturday of every month from May to October. More collection days in turn boosted the number of users and the amount of material processed. The number of households using the facility increased from 362 in 2003 to 569 in 2010.

Alton does two "mini collections" in July and September. Silk and an assistant travel to Alton with a technician from Clean Harbors, the licensed hazardous waste disposal operator, and the materials collected are brought back to the main facility in Wolfeboro and consolidated with material collected in Wolfeboro before being hauled away.

Alton and Wolfeboro residents can use the facility to dispose of their wastes at no charge, provided they bring a free pass given out at each town's transfer station. Residents from other towns are also allowed to dispose of their hazardous materials at the rate of $40 for each five-gallon increment of material disposed. Residents of Moultonborough, Sandwich and Tuftonboro will be reimbursed by their towns for up to $40 of the disposal costs. So far the farthest a person has come to dispose at the facility is from Franconia.

The facility can handle small quantity generators like marinas, who are billed separately. Area camps are considered households and many camps participate. Recently the facility accepted a lot of outdated chemicals removed from the labs at Kingswood High School during its renovation project.

In 2010 the facility held a special collection of unwanted pesticides and herbicides from farmers, funded by the N.H. Department of Agriculture. This was the first such collection in 20 years and farmers came from all over the state.

Collecting unwanted medications

In August 2006 the facility participated in a pilot program run by the Northeast Recycling Council (www.nerc.org) to collect unwanted medicines during a regular household hazardous waste collection. Wolfeboro was the only New Hampshire participant in the pilot study and it also achieved the lowest cost per gallon of medications collected ($7/gallon). The project required the involvement of a pharmacist to identify the drugs turned in as well as a police officer in the event controlled substances were submitted. A total of 20 gallons of medications were collected. In 2007 the number of medicine collections was increased to two a year and in 2008 a third collection in Alton was added. In 2010 a new record was set of 165.5 gallons of medicines collected.

It is dangerous to dispose of unwanted medications in regular trash, and flushing them down the drain can pollute water supplies with substances that can take years to break down. There is also the problem of teens selling and using leftover prescription medicines to get high. Pharmacies are not allowed to accept returned prescriptions, so the safest course of action is to dispose of the unwanted medications properly.

This spring the federal Drug Enforcement Agency sponsored a drug turn-in program run by area police that was so successful it will be repeated this fall. Alton and Wolfeboro Police can also accept unwanted medications anytime; they are kept in a secure area and incinerated periodically.

For most people, though, it is easier to round up unwanted medications at the same time that unwanted hazardous material around the house is collected for disposal. The next household hazardous waste collection on Aug. 20 from 8:30 a.m. to noon will include a medicine collection.

Silk has now been involved with Wolfeboro's hazardous waste disposal program as site coordinator for 21 years. She volunteered to help run the program in 1990 during her first term as selectman. After she left the Board of Selectmen in 1993 she stuck with the program and has stayed with it after being re-elected as selectman in 2005.

She is proud of the results achieved over the past 21 years, especially since the permanent facility was built. "Alton is a joy to work with," she says, and the joint board that owns and oversees the facility is very supportive. She is most encouraged by the fact that one third of participants in each hazardous waste collection are there for the first time. "We still haven't seen everyone yet," Silk says.

"The facility gets lots of calls from people referred by DES [the state Department of Environmental Services]," including people who are moving and realtors who want to make sure there is no hazardous waste remaining on a listed property. Other towns have visited the facility and the Solid Waste Association of North America took a tour during a recent convention.

"It is really encouraging that people come and do the right thing" in disposing of dangerous materials and medications, Silk says. "It makes it all worthwhile."

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