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Free Household Hazardous Waste Collection Ramps up

Household hazardous waste collection begins in earnest this week, as the Salt Lake County Health Department begins hosting neighborhood collections throughout the summer.

A lot of sorting gets done here at the hazardous waste Collection Center, where chemist Ed Larrat is rummaging through containers of dried up paints, white gas, solvents, herbicides and other household discards.

Separate bins hold dry stuff, like granulated pesticides, fertilizers and engine oil bottles. Latex paint cans are stacked in a dump-truck sized container to get ready for shipping. Old batteries and electronics have their own piles. Known toxics and mystery chemicals get sent to the hazardous waste incinerator and dump in Tooele County.

Larrat says the facility serves a bigger purpose.

“All this liquid could end up in the drinking water,” he says.

“It has a high impact. Most of this stuff would be sent down the sink to our water treatment facilities that aren’t really equipped for these chemicals.

The big focus here is keeping the stuff out of the landfill, where it can leach.

“It’s easier to manage the environmental impact of it if it never goes in there,” Larrat says.

Much of what’s collected here will be recycled either on site or by landfill partners, like Habitat for Humanity and high school shop classes. The year-round hazardous waste sites are open to homeowners at the county landfill and at the Trans Jordan landfill in South Jordan.

Salt Lake County also offers thirteen neighborhood collections this summer beginning Thursday morning in Sugar House.

“We collect everything at the local collections that we collect here,” says Larrat.

Residents dropped off around two million pounds last year, and they are on track to bring even more this year. Dan Moore, a supervisor in the county’s environmental health division, describes the collections as a simple way to make Salt Lake County cleaner and healthier. 

“People who find out about it, they use it,” he says, “and I think that is really commendable because the residents want to do the right thing.”

The hazardous waste collection sites won’t accept business waste, explosives, radioactive materials, pharmaceuticals or old tires. But the county health department can often advise residents where they can dispose of that waste.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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