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County Ponders Hazardous Procedures

Unused pesticides, oil paints, cleaning compounds and unidentified chemicals in your home need proper disposal.

POLK COUNTY -- Unused pesticides, oil paints, cleaning compounds and unidentified chemicals in your home need proper disposal. If you've wondered what to do with them, take heart -- Polk County has the same problem, albeit on a larger scale.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has awarded Polk County a $10,000 grant to prepare a household hazardous waste plan for the county. The plan will guide the county in getting rid the waste itself, as the DEQ backs away from the responsibility.

In the past, the DEQ held 30 to 40 waste collection events per year, Polk County Community Development Director Gene Clemens said. The success of previous cleanups -- 200 to 300 households would participate -- demonstrates the necessity of such events, he said. Currently, the DEQ holds four or five collections per year. "Their funds are drying up," Clemens explained.

In Dallas, Dallas Disposal and Recycling Company offers at least one residential hazardous waste clean-up per year.

With waning state involvement, public pressure has given local governments an incentive to find their own way of removing the hazardous waste. People have called their city managers complaining of accumulating hazardous materials, Clemens said. The waste may also pose a fire risk. "If there's a high volume, it could be a hazard to not only the fire and rescue people but to the whole neighborhood in the event of a fire," he said.

The $10,000 grant will go to a consultant to help the county draft a plan, County Commissioner Mike Propes said. A local citizen advisory board made up of hazardous waste collectors, potential customers and the cities involved will then review the consultant's proposal and make recommendations to city and county officials, he said.

If the DEQ accepts the resulting plan, it will give the county money to implement it. The money will go towards construction purposes only; the county must then find a way to fund the collections, Clemens noted. "Getting the money for the disposal is the biggest challenge," Propes said.

Clemens expects the county to adopt a plan within the next six months. The next round of money from the DEQ becomes available Oct. 1, "and we want to be first in line," Clemens said.

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