County, cities eye hazardous waste plan



POLK COUNTY -- When the state Department of Environmental Quality stopped collecting unwanted household chemicals like automotive fluids and pesticides, those wastes didn't just go away.

In 2002, Polk County and its cities drew up a plan to gather and dispose of the hazardous materials themselves.

In the next few weeks, county and city officials will vote on that plan -- and whether to fund it with a 25-cent fee on garbage bills. The Polk County Board of Commissioners will discuss the plan and fee at its Wednesday, Jan. 21, meeting.

The Independence City Council could vote on the fee at its Tuesday, Jan. 27, meeting. The Dallas council will consider it Monday, Feb. 2, followed by Monmouth's council, Tuesday, Feb. 3.

The DEQ hasn't held a hazardous waste collection in Polk County since 1997, said county Community Development Director Gene Clemens. County officials funded the last collection, in 2001, themselves.

Polk County received a $10,000 state grant to put together its household hazardous waste plan and another $10,000 for a trailer to pick up the waste. Local fruit processor Meduri Farms will supply $31,400 for the trailer as part of a settlement that allows polluters to pay their fines to local programs instead of DEQ.

The plan also calls for cooperation between Polk and Marion counties. Marion County would use the trailer to collect wastes in both counties and then deposit them at a permanent disposal site Marion County.

The two-county effort will make waste disposal more efficient, Clemens said. "If you get one mercury thermometer, you have to seal that off in a drum by itself.

"You pay for the whole drum."

Marion County staff will also make sure recyclables like latex paint and car batteries don't make it into the drums, Clemens said.

If Polk County and its cities adopt the hazardous waste plan, they could still reject the fee, looking for another way to fund the disposals. Each local government, acting individually, must adopt the plan and the fee.

Monmouth-Independence area customers would see the new charge on their Brandt's Sanitary Service bills. Dallas charges would appear on the Dallas Disposal bills.

If every city and the county set up a 25-cent monthly fee, the program would generate around $55,000 per year. That amount would fund three collections per year, according to the plan.

If any opt out, Clemens said, collections would happen less often. Officials would need to decide whether to exclude residents from a city or county that decides not to participate.

The fees would cover only household wastes. The program would collect small amounts of hazardous materials from businesses as well, but the business themselves would cover the cost.



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