By JEFF DURBIN, Missourian staff writer
April 21, 1999

If you've got nasty, unwanted chemicals in your shed or garage, don't dump them - take them to the Columbia Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility instead.

Household cleaners, lawn chemicals, used oil, paint, batteries and insecticides are accepted at the collection center, 1313 Lakeview Ave. Now in its eighth year, the site is open two Saturdays a month through November.

And unlike the St. Louis Cardinals, even after the year of Big Mac, this season's opening day at the center set an attendance record; 214 cars dropped off hazardous products.

"This is the only one in central Missouri," said David Avery, a supervisor for the Solid Waste Department. "We've had people from Rolla, all kinds of places."

Mary Nesladek of Columbia, who visited last Saturday, said she comes a couple of times a year with old paint, lawnmower oil, batteries and various things her family doesn't use.

"If we didn't have this, I don't know what I'd do," Nesladek said.

Jim McKinney came both open days this year.

"I brought 20 years' accumulation of old paint and an old gas can for a chainsaw," McKinney said.

Between 120 to 160 cars come through on an average Saturday, Avery said. Everything that can't be recycled is picked up by a hazardous waste company twice a year and taken to special incinerators or landfills.

Most items are reused or recycled, however. Last year the facility collected about 93,000 pounds of waste and disposed of 13,000. The rest, about 80,000 pounds of mainly motor oil, batteries, antifreeze and latex paint, was reused or recycled, said Mary Ellen Klein, solid waste collection superintendent.

"We're actually saving taxpayers a lot of money," Klein said.

The facility does not accept appliances such as refrigerators, TVs and microwave ovens that have outlived their usefulness. People with those items should call the department first to arrange a curbside pickup.

The Public Works Department has also published a list of safer alternatives to household chemicals, said Tina Hubbs, volunteer coordinator. For example, glass cleaners can be made with vinegar or lemon juice, water and cornstarch. Borax or baking soda can be added to laundry soap in place of bleach or stain removers.

Families with hazardous chemicals at home should make sure the products are kept away from children and pets, Hubbs said.

"People get pretty cavalier in the way they handle these materials," Hubbs said. "It's important to read the labels, even the fine print."

About 20 people volunteer at the center, giving information and answering questions.

Bill Crum, a department employee for nearly 35 years, said that before Columbia started the waste program, people would often put hazardous material in the trash or throw it into ditches, he said.

"You and I may be OK," Crum said. "But down the road the chemicals might affect our kids and grandkids if they get in the water."

Columbia's landfill has a plastic liner and leachate collectors, Klein said.

"We're doing everything we can to make landfills safer, but if you can keep it out of landfills, that's even safer," she said.

Hubbs also said the city's landfill is built safely.

"Who knows what's going to happen in a hundred years?" Hubbs said. "It's as safe as can be made, but we don't want to take a chance of letting anything into our groundwater, soil or air."


Columbia Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility: Free of charge. Located at 1313 Lakeview Ave. Open 9 a.m.-1 p.m., first and third Saturdays of the month, April through November. Call 874-6291 to ask about products you can drop off; call 874-6271 for volunteer information.



To decide if a product may be hazardous, look for these signal words on the label:





Among other items, the facility accepts acids, aerosol cans, ammunition, antifreeze, batteries, fertilizer, fuel and motor oil, furniture polishes and waxes, gasoline, insecticides, kerosene, oil- and water-based paint, paint stripper, pesticides, photographic chemicals, rodent poison, roofing tar, spot removers, wood preservatives and stains, and unknown substances.