Though Saturday was dreary, wet and chilly, residents made the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation-sponsored Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day the biggest yet for Loudon County.
TDEC Household Hazardous Waste Collector Paula Mitchell said about 155 households came to the Loudon County Justice Center to drop off a little more than 6,700 pounds of hazardous household waste. The spring event saw 144 households, which is an average rate around the state, Mitchell said.
"Loudon County has done a good job. We had a variety of waste streams at the event this past Saturday, which is good," she said, noting that Loudon collected 11 pounds of the neurological toxin mercury.
"It certainly makes our trip worthwhile to be able to get that much mercury out of the waste streams and safely disposed. They do a very good job managing some of those minimally hazardous household waste," she said.
But local residents didn't stop there.
Lenoir City collected around 3,000 pounds of oil-based and 6,500 pounds of latex paint at its convenience center on Halls Ferry Road. Paint was not included in the list of items accepted at the justice center, but that's because the local center now accepts oil-based paint on a weekly basis.
"It's giving the residents a more convenient collection opportunity throughout the year rather than waiting for that one-day-per-year event and it's helping the state save a significant amount of money by not having to pay a hazardous waste contractor to do all the handling and disposal," Mitchell said.
Gordon Harless, Loudon County Convenience Center and recycling coordinator, attributes that spike - about 150 people whereas any typical Saturday sees fewer than 20 - to advertising for the collection day.
"It is quite a bit more than we had anticipated," Harless said. "I guess people were used to the waste day, but people were diverted to our Lenoir City location."
The Lenoir City center accepts paint 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays for residents only.
Since the program began in 1993, households across the state have disposed of more than 20 million pounds of household hazardous material.
Hazardous household waste is considered flammable, toxic, reactive and/or corrosive and should not be placed with regular garbage. Those items include cleaning fluids, pesticides, mercury thermometers and thermostats, fluorescent bulbs, lithium and button batteries, aerosols, adhesives, medications, brake fluid, swimming pool chemicals and paint thinner.
Items not accepted included ammunition, explosives, alkaline batteries, paint, electronics, medical waste and any items from a school, commercial business or agribusiness.
Locally, TDEC has completed 26 household hazardous waste collection days and trips to collect paint since 1995, according to Mitchell, but this year the county hosted two waste collection days.
"We felt that the need was there and we were able to convey that to TDEC, which agreed, and they allowed us to have this second event, which is out of state funds. It's free to the residents of Loudon County," Harless said.
Depending on state funds, Mitchell said Loudon could see two events again next year. Harless hopes it will happen.
"I feel like it was a success. If the state funds are available in the future, this will allow us to have two events possibly every year, which is great for the people that we serve," Harless said. "I think that it's a great benefit to the Loudon County residents as well as the neighboring counties and they don't have to have these chemicals around their house any longer than necessary."
Both agree giving residents an opportunity to properly dispose of hazardous waste brings benefits full circle.
"This keeps all of these pesticides and herbicides, as well as a lot of other chemicals, out of the runoff water, out of the landfill, you know, as well as it diminishes the chance that one of the sanitation workers will get hurt or exposed to any chemicals in handling household garbage," Harless said.
For more information on the household hazardous waste mobile collection service, call 1-800-287-9013 or visit http://www.tn.gov/environment/swm/hhw