Category Archives: Story

Story written about HHW

1996-10-01 – Nor’ Easter Can’t Stop Passaic County Hazardous Waste Event

by B. Ellie Arnould, Solid Waste Programs Coordinator, Passaic County Office of Recycling and Solid Waste Programs, October 1996.

Heavy rains, strong winds and area flooding did nothing to hold back Passaic County residents from coming to the County’s Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day Event on Saturday, October 19, 1996.

With the largest turnout to date, oil paints, thinners, pesticides, used motor oil, pool chemicals and more were dropped off at the Wayne location, even as the dangerous storm blew through the area.

B. Ellie Arnould, Solid Waste Programs Coordinator stated that, “the one day event ran very smoothly with a consistantly heavy turnout continuing all day. More than 875 cars braved the weather to drop off more than 42,000 pounds of toxic materials for proper disposal.”

The Passaic County Office of Recycling and Solid Waste Programs, in charge of the collection events, keeps careful records which showed that this year the collection day saw a 39 percent increase in the amount of bulk hazardous waste brought in.

With the public now understanding the need for safe handling and appropriate disposal of potentially dangerous products, the collection days have seen consistently increasing participation. Last year the County hosted two such events.

Rain-soaked staff and volunteers alike, which included several Municipal Coordinators, high school students and corporate professionals, knew their efforts were appreciated by residents who took the time to express their thanks during the day.

As Stephanie Slota, a 4-H Environmental Project volunteer from Wanaque stated, “I felt like I was really helping to make a difference when I saw just how many people want to do the right thing.”

Preliminary figures released by Bob Wyle, the program manager showed just how little an impact the bad weather had on public participation:

Item 10/14/95 10/19/96 % Increase
Bulk HHW 24,522 lbs. 34,180 lbs. 39%
Car Batteries 82 125 52%
Household Batteries 1,973 lbs. 4,377 lbs. 122%
Used Motor Oil 1,800 gal. 1,800 gal 0%

The program is a collaborative effort, with help from the County Road Department, Buildings and Grounds, Sheriff’s Department, Weights and Measures, Paratransit, Health Department and the Passaic County Utilities Authority.

In addition to the collection events, the Office of Recycling and Solid Waste Programs offers information on the proper handling of toxic materials, as well as information on how to choose safer, alternative products.

1996-10-01 – For Lead Prevention – A Hearty “Thank You” to UMDNJ!

By Laura Macpherson, Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority, October 1996 

Many counties have recently received recompense for promoting the proper recycling of rechargeable batteries. The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), in conjunction with the NJDEP, designed a unique public education program to further promote the proper recycling of certain targeted rechargeable batteries – batteries that, because of their toxic content, were universally recognized as a threat to the public health and the environment if not handled and managed properly.

In exchange for assisting in the implementation of this public education and outreach program, the UMDNJ directed $4,500.00 of funding to counties that chose to participate in the project.. In return, the counties will use this grant to help administer education and outreach efforts concerning lead poisoning prevention and rechargeable battery recycling.

The UMDNJ was able to assist in furthering lead poisoning prevention by providing numerous educational tools, such as posters, flyers, television and radio public service announcements, and car registration/DMV cards.

The members of ANJHHWC issue a heartfelt “thank you” to Dr. Joan Cook Luckhardt, Director of this program, and Stacey Kenyon, Health Educator, UMDNJ, for their commitment and dedication to developing and administering this important program. You have helped us “get the lead out” of our communities.

1996-08-01 – The Tempest that is “Household Hazardous Waste Day”

By Larry Gindoff, Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority, August 1996.
Art work by Jerry Garcia

Like a hurricane, the foundations of household hazardous waste days are rooted in seemingly peaceful beginnings. Eventually, all the planning, bidding and promoting materialize into a squall that crashes upon the shore with great vengeance. It is this type of storm, with all of its uncertainties, that I am referring to as household hazardous waste disposal day.

Early in the morning, these days have a real serene feel to them. Early birds wait patiently in cars reading the news of the day while workers eat breakfast and prepare the site. Breakfast is a time that you can sip a cup of coffee and reflect on the day ahead. It’s a peaceful time, the calm before the storm, a Maxwell House moment.

Then the clouds roll in. The thunder of the early birds’ engines fill the air as the doors of HHW day officially open. It then starts to pour, and I’m not talking cool, quenching rain here. I’m talking about a flood of paints, pesticides, oil, antifreeze, asbestos, and a myriad of other chemicals that would even overwhelm Madame Curie.

The hazardous waste workers seem to handle the deluge with great persistence. Like the old man of the sea, they have weathered this storm many times before.

In the same way that waves crash upon the beach during a storm, most cars come and go without incident. They deposit materials they have carried with them and head back out to sea, maybe to come back another day.

While working through this torrent can become routine at times, everyone realizes that lightning in a bottle may only be one car away. The next wave that hits may be the one that breaks the dikes.

Careful preparation and experience enable us to weather the storm, but it is not without a sacrifice. A great deal of effort goes into cleaning up the mess left by the storm.

Eventually, the sun peeks above the horizon as the doors to HHW day close. A wave or two may still roll in but everyone realizes that sunny skies are on the way.

The sun bursts through the clouds as manifests are signed and trucks high-tail it out of town. It is such a wonderful feeling that I often see rainbows caused by the sunlight reflecting off of my tears of joy. It isn’t a sense of accomplishment as much as a feeling of relief. It’s too bad that another tempest is brewing just over the horizon.

1993-06-01 – A Day in the Life

by Larry Gindoff, Solid Waste Coordinator, Morris County, NJ, June 1993

As Morris County’s household hazardous waste (“HHW’) coordinator since 1987, I ran eight uneventful HHW disposal days prior to the one that occurred on a very hot Saturday in June of 1993. This disposal day, which taxed the ability of the workers and the patience of the residents, is the subject of this article. My description will illustrate several potential problems that must be considered when designing a safe and successful HHW program.

This day started like any other HHW disposal day. I arrived at the Morris County Road Department Garage at 6:15 a.m. and at 6:30 a.m. a caravan of trucks belonging to Wade Salvage of Atco, N.J., started rolling onto the site. By 6:45 a.m. the site was bristling with action.

It was cool, crisp morning but the crystal clear skies and the knot in my stomach made me realize it was going to be a scorcher. Although we stopped requiring pre-registration, I knew from the inquiries I had received that this was going to be Morris County’s busiest disposal day to date. My instincts were correct because at 7:00 a.m. the first resident arrived. I told her we were scheduled to open at 9:00a.m. but she insisted on waiting to “beat the crowd.” By 8:00 a.m. there were approximately 150 people like her there to beat the crowd.

The Road Department employees who were there only to setup the site worked feverishly to get all of the cars off Hanover Avenue, a busy County Road, and onto the garage site. Luckily we redesigned the queuing pattern from previous years to allow for approximately 75 cars to line up on-site. In the past the site was laid out for approximately 25 cars to queue on-site but due to predicted demand, we redesigned the layout but it was obviously not enough.

To accommodate the remaining 75 cars waiting for us to open, we established a second line on site much like the dreaded lines you encounter at a DMV inspection station. I knew people weren’t going to be happy when we started to run a program like the DMV and I was right. We opened just after 8:00 a.m. and the hazardous waste came pouring in.

Wade’s workers quickly got busy emptying out the trunks of the participants. Initially processing two cars simultaneously, then four then six. We were accepting waste at record rates. By no fault of Wade Salvage, the lines just got longer. One problem was, the site was so congested with cars lining up, and eventually with paint cans unloaded but not yet consolidated into drums, there was no room for cars with one or two items to pass cars that were no completely unloaded. This resulted in choke points, longer lines and angry people. 

Eventually the line could no longer be contained on-site and it spilled onto Hanover Avenue. The local police were immediately called to control traffic on this road. One line got longer until it reached a major intersection one quarter mile down the road. At this point the police closed the line and would not let any other cars on it.

To complicate matters, resourceful residents parked on a side street and walked their hazardous waste down to the collection point. Before I knew it, I had a procession of people lugging down multiple cans of paint, pesticides and chemicals to the processing area. Although, we quickly stopped these walk-ons, the damage was done. We had more angry participants and unknown material deposited.

At the worst, people had to wait an hour to get unloaded but by 11:00 a.m. we got into a good flow of unloading cars and the wait was down to 15 to 20 minutes By 1:00 p.m. there were no more cars lined up off-site. By 2:00 p.m. closing time there were just a few cars to process. We survived Morris County’s busiest HHW disposal day with just over 1,000 participants. The only thing left to do was to pack the vast amount of waste left unprocessed in piles. I knew there would be no more surprises. I relaxed for a moment and at 4:00 p.m. ate my first food for the day, a cold five hour old cheese steak sandwich.  It was getting late and I was eager to go home. I was ready to go into work Monday and explain why we had such long lines and how we were going to change it for the future. After all, many people in a rage screamed, “Who’s in charge here and where do I complain?”

It was 10:00 p.m. when the bad news came. The chief chemist alerted me to the fact that they had discovered a jar of crystallized picric acid which is very unstable and explosive. He suggested that for safety’s sake we notify the County’s emergency management unit and bomb squad; so I did.

Within five minutes a jeep with flashing lights arrived on-site from the local fire department asking what was going on. The chemist explained the situation to him and he communicated over the radio with other officials. All I was thinking was that I wished this guy would shut off his flashing lights so as not to draw any additional bad publicity to my HHW program.

Before I realized what happened, this firefighter took control of the situation and ordered the evacuation of the site bringing all work to a halt. Eleven homes within a quarter mile of the garage were evacuated. If this wasn’t bad enough, it was decided to close Hanover Avenue for a quarter mile on each side of the garage. While the emergency personnel decided what to do with the bottle of picric acid the size of a small jar of spaghetti sauce, more and more equipment and personnel arrived on the scene. Soon to come were several ambulances, several fire trucks, the Mayor of the Township, the County Administrator, a County Freeholder and scores of emergency personnel including volunteer firefighters and paramedics.

At 4:00 a.m., after several hours of preparation, the bomb squad signaled everyone by blowing a horn that it was about to detonate the picric acid. A big bang ensued, no one was hurt and the episode seemed over. The emergency personnel packed up their equipment, and left the scene. There was still the work of loading all the filled drums onto the trucks before the job was done. Wade reassembled its work force and went back to work.

By 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning all the drums were loaded, counted, manifested and the caravan started to leave the sight. At 6:15 a.m., exactly 24 hours after I had first arrived, I started my car and drove home. This was like no other HHW disposal day.

I have told you this story of a day in the life of HHW management so both the HHW coordinator and disposal company can learn from my experience. Following that June 1993 program, the County relocated its HHW disposal days to the parking lot of its Fire and Police Training Academy. This site had much more room to operate and was utilized for two disposal days in the Fall of 1993. Both disposal days operated like all the other disposal days I had conducted except that one big event on that hot June day.

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Name: Daniel Capelle
Affliation: Onyx Environmental Services
EMail: dcapelle@onyxes.com
Date: 1/13/00

Comments
Onyx Environmental Service (OES), with offices located throughout the East Coast and centered in Flanders, NJ most likely could have handled the picric acid management as safely and with less cost and less down-time for Morris County. Along with conducting several HHW events annually, OES has a highly-trained and well-equipped Reactives Chemical Group (RCG). The RCG utilizes a specially designed Remote Opener, BATF- issue Fragmentation Gear (ppe) and other equipment on a weekly basis for just this sort of material managment. An appropriate solvent (in this case water) is added to the container once opened. The material is then available for standard handling, transportation and disposal as a hazard class 4.1 (Flammable Solid) material. Detonation as a management technique can cause a lot of headaches and usually is not the best option. Sorry for the Company pitch…I couldn’t resist…I coodrinate the RCG of the Midwest. As a side note, I too have worked several long hours on HHW events; however, your 24-hour tale has me beat…my longest to date is a 20-hour day.
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Name: Greg Boe
Affliation: Scott County (MN) Environmental Health
EMail: gboe@co.scott.mn.us
Date: 8/5/99

Comments
I feel your pain!! We too had one collection day worse than all the rest, with nearly 1000 cars. Our saving grace was that our collection was held at a County Highway Garage out in the country, so the line of cars spilled out onto a 2-lane country highway rather than a busy city street. It gets to be a long day…my back and feet hurt for days!!! We got a few angry calls on Monday, but it actually worked to our advantage, as it clearly showed our citizens the need for a permanent HHW Facility open multiple times per month rather than the one-day collections and ever-increasing lines of cars!! GOOD LUCK!!!!