Household waste is a local issue

Letter to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Your story regarding household hazardous waste collection programs in Southeast communities ("Small towns lose Hazmobile," Oct. 8) missed some important facts that your readers should know. The article suggests Southeast Alaska communities depend on the State to handle their household hazardous waste when, in fact, the communities have and can continue to keep these household wastes out of their landfills.

Waste collection and disposal is a local, not state government function.

The collection of household hazardous waste in Southeast communities has been accomplished through the hard work and financing of each community with the help of the Southeast Conference. Larger communities like Ketchikan collect household hazardous waste throughout the year, while smaller communities hold one or two annual collection events. Private environmental consultants contracted by the Southeast Conference manage the actual waste collection to ensure chemical compatibility and consolidation into the proper drums. The communities assist with the collection and pay for the drums, shipping, and disposal/recycling.

The Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) minor contribution to household hazardous waste collection in Southeast Alaska has been to drive the "hazmobile" to the different communities. This large van stores the equipment used to collect, characterize and prepare the community wastes for shipment down south.

As reported in the Empire, "town administrators are worried about who will take on the liability for hazardous waste collection." Under federal law, EPA strictly regulates the disposal of hazardous waste. Fortunately, household wastes do not require the extensive disposal precautions and liability applied to hazardous waste under federal law. Communities are no more liable for household hazardous waste than they are for their other municipal waste.

DEC regulates large and small solid waste landfills across the state with an annual budget approved by the legislature. Last year the legislature cut the $75,000 and one position from the governor's budget request to regulate small solid waste facilities.

With the help of the Southeast Conference, Southeast communities have proven that they are capable of collecting and transporting household hazardous waste for disposal outside Alaska. The state's limited resources are better focused on ensuring Alaska's communities have permitted landfills for the safe solid waste disposal.

Jennifer Roberts

Solid Waste Program Manager

Department of Environmental Conservation


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