Hazwastes: Hazwaste Study Reveals Need For Collection Center

Searching for an effective household hazardous waste (HHW) management solution, public officials in the St. Louis metropolitan area turned to a citizen-based task force for answers.

"The Missouri Solid Waste Management Law (S.B. 530), passed in 1992, requires solid waste plans to have provisions for separating household hazardous wastes prior to their entering the solid waste stream," said David Berger, Executive Director of the St. Louis-Jefferson Solid Waste Management District (SWMD).

With this in mind, the District provided grant funds to St. Louis County, who, in turn, asked FOCUS St. Louis, a non-profit or-ganization, to launch a HHW feasibility study to ascertain the needs of citizens, municipalities and businesses.

Limited disposal options and the expensive, fragmented nature of the area's present one-day collection approach makes HHW management "a critical public policy issue," said Jessica Perkins, the task force's chairperson.

A desire for more convenient, readily accessible and safer management alternatives was discovered af-ter the task force conducted its year-long study in St. Louis, St. Louis County and nearby Jefferson County, Mo. To satisfy this demand, the task force recommended a permanent, re-gional collection center with at least one accompanying mobile unit and a plan to increase HHW awareness, facilitate its disposal and significantly reduce collection and disposal costs on a region-wide basis (see chart).

The collection center's establishment would require both public and private support to ensure timely, cost-efficient and effective site development, as well as long-term operation, the task force said. Thus, immediate identification and pursuit of funding from both sectors also was recommended.

The facility's start-up costs are estimated at $1.6 million over a three-year period, with ongoing, annual operational costs of approximately $700,000. Financing is expected to be shared equitably by jurisdictions affected by the program.

Other possible funding sources may include: grant funds from the St. Louis-Jefferson SWMD, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); corporate underwriting and/or contributions to specific aspects of the program (such as the mobile collection units or equipment and materials); landfill tipping fees; participating municipalities' per capita usage fees; a surcharge added to utility bills; or, as a last resort, a small tax could be proposed to voters.

"The task force believes that a permanent HHW collection center, with an accompanying mobile unit and regional education program, is the most comprehensive and cost-effective alternative," Perkins said. In fact, with the new facility in place, a savings of approximately 66 percent will result over current one-day collection costs.

The proposed center will be centralized, convenient and designed with regard for safety and reduced pollution. After researching different programs across the country, an extremely successful Spring-field, Mo., household chemical collection center was recommended as a model.

The mobile unit will operate throughout the spring, summer and fall in different communities on a scheduled basis. And, the education program will encourage use of the collection site, teach people to recognize HHW products, promote their safe use and minimize the amounts requiring disposal.

Recently, these proposals were presented at a series of public meetings to test the concepts with participating municipalities. "As the public more fully understands the risks involved in hazardous wastes, there is strong support for a comprehensive, regional solution," noted Perkins.

"The [task force] involved many citizens in the development of this plan," said Laura Yates, solid waste administrative specialist for St. Louis County. "Their recommendations can serve as the framework for creating a long-term solution to this potentially dangerous problem."

The task force and advisory committee included representatives from eight different municipalities in the St. Louis region, the Mis-souri DNR the U.S. EPA, the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer Dis-trict, the St. Louis-Jefferson SWMD, various corporations, environmental groups, civic and educational organizations.

For a copy of the Task Force Re-port, contact: Cindy Follman, FOCUS St. Louis, 1910 Pine St., Ste. 120, St. Louis, Mo. 63103. (314) 622-1250. Fax: (314) 622-1279.