Getting rid of toxic waste the proper way in Pittsfield

Sunday October 28, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Steve Durkee and his friend Paul Merriam have been trying to figure out what to do with all the used engine oil they've been storing in their garage for the past few years.

The answer came Saturday during the town's free collection for household hazardous waste, the first in at least four years.

"People used to just dump this stuff in their backyards and we have no idea what it can do to the environment," Durkee said. "We wanted to make sure all this went where it was supposed to."

Between the two of them, they dropped off more than 25 gallons of old oil and fuel as well as various old paints, all of which might have otherwise been put into a landfill, something Merriam wasn't about to do.

"This is great," he said of program. "To be able to do this the right way, the clean way. This stuff builds up so quickly and a lot of it is flammable, and I'd hate to think what would happen if there was a fire."

Durkee and Merriam weren't the only ones concerned about their noxious chemicals and poisons. More than 300 people dropped off their toxic waste at the Pittsfield Highway Facility as crews from the Center for Eco Technology sorted the chemicals and various hazardous materials.

Amy Fleming, residential outreach eco fellow for the center, who helped put on the event, said the turnout was amazing.

The environmental impact of collecting that much hazardous waste can be "incredible," she said.

Unfortunately, more often than not, toxic chemicals aren't disposed of properly and can wreck havoc on the planet, Fleming said.

"If these materials were put in with the main trash and incinerated it could release harmful chemicals into the air," Fleming said. "Likewise, if they were buried, they could contaminate the ground water. We want to make sure as much of this stuff as possible is properly taken care of."

Pittsfield highway foreman Mike Rooney said he couldn't be happier.

"People bringing their stuff here means it's not being dumped behind their sheds," Rooney said.

Fellow foreman Zeke Liebenow echoed Rooney's support of the free program for Pittsfield residents.

Liebenow said he's constantly surprised by the amount of hazardous materials found on the sides of roads they work on.

"Tamarack Road, for example, was just repaired and it was amazing to see the amount of garbage on both sides of the road," he said. "The sad part is, it's not just there, it's everywhere.

For David Miner and his wife Valerie, the waste collection was all about preservation.

After dropping off paint thinners, old oils and various cleaning products, the Miner's felt satisfied they had done their part for the planet.

"I remember going to the dump with my dad and them just burying everything be cause that's the way it was," he said. "We have grandkids now and we want to make the world a better place for them."


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