Household hazardous waste facility opens

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In an effort to create more opportunities for hazardous waste disposal outside of the yearly Allen County Tox-Away Day, the Allen County Department of Environmental Management has launched a weekly household hazardous waste drop-off program just south of Huntertown.

“We’re hoping this will be a step forward in trying to give people a place and a way to discard those items properly,” said Tom Fox, director of the Allen County Department of Environmental Management.

Prior to the passage of a state law that allowed local county governments to absorb solid waste management districts, Tox-Away Day was headed by the Allen County Solid Waste Management District in a parking lot on Meyer Road between Fort Wayne and New Haven the first Saturday after Labor Day each year. The county’s waste management district became the Allen County Department of Environmental Management effective March 1 of this year. Since then, the department has been seeking ways to meet the needs of Allen County’s growing population.

“What we’ve been trying to do is evaluate all the existing programs to try and see which ones are still valid, how we can update and tweak what was already there and see what new (programs) we can initiate,” Fox said. “We’re kind of doing a top-to-bottom analysis of the whole department.”

That, coupled with the sale of the Meyer Road property, prompted the department to begin looking for ways to make a disposal site more available to residents.

While Tox-Away Day met that need to a certain extent, household hazardous items could only be disposed of one day out of the year.

“We thought with a population of 300,000, a weekly program would be something that would really meet the needs of citizens, and hopefully we would be able to get even more hazardous items out of the waste stream,” Fox said.

Tox-Away Day serviced an average of about 1,000 cars each year, and ACDEM hopes the weekly program will boost yearly numbers and discourage residents from disposing of items in an unsafe manner.

“One of our main missions is just to limit all things, as much as possible, going to the landfill — hazardous or otherwise — to prolong the life of the landfill,” Fox said.

The new program, Tox-Away Tuesday, will take place at a newly refurbished facility at 2260 Carroll Road. Drop-offs will be accepted 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Tuesday.

Residents are asked to enter via Recovery Road off S.R. 3 just north of Byron Health Center. A sign can currently be seen outside the entrance, but ACDEM has more on order from the Indiana Department of Transportation, which Fox said the department hopes will be up by the time the facility opens to the public.

The cost is $5 per vehicle depending on the items. Propane tanks, for example, will cost $10, which is the most any vehicle will be charged, Fox said. There is a 50-pound limit for each vehicle. Residents will have to provide a zip code to verify their residence.

After items are received, employees will separate them in a staging area out of public contact. Collected materials will then be taken to an onsite, secured safety storage facility. After the department receives a sufficient quantity of each item, contractor Veolia North America, a national environmental consulting company, will transport items to various processing facilities to be recycled or disposed of.

“They do a lot of these types of events around the country and they have a great deal of expertise, so they’ll be working with us very closely through the process,” Fox said, adding that he hopes the weekly program will cut down on the long lines associated with Tox-Away Day.

The facility also hosts a similar program for small businesses on Thursdays. For more information on that program, businesses can call (260) 449-7878.

Items the facility will not accept include appliances, explosives, electronic devices, infectious waste, industrial hazardous waste, medication, radioactive materials, steel drums and tires. For information regarding the disposal of those items, residents are encouraged to call the number above.

While the program currently takes place on a weekly basis, there is a possibility for expansion in the future.

“We’re going to be continually assessing the program and altering it as we can as we go along so that it meets the needs of residents, but we have to start somewhere,” Fox said.

A downloadable map of the facility as well as a list of accepted items can be found at tinyurl.com/ybjxyjje. For more information, visit acwastewatcher.org/household-hazardous-waste/facility.