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Records established at spring clean sweep

A pharmaceutical collection was introduced and a record number of vehicles plus a record amount of waste were recorded at this spring's Pierce County Clean Sweep.

The mid-April event attracted 397 vehicles, an increase of 78 over the 319 attending in the spring of 2007, according to a report from the county's solid waste and recycling department.

The 397 vehicles this year delivered a record-high combined total of 33,657 pounds of waste from households, farms and businesses, which is an increase of 10,932 pounds over the previous year's spring event.

Meantime, a total of 53 pounds of pharmaceutical waste was collected from 36 residents and a medical health facility this spring. The Special Waste Manager from the La Crosse County Hazardous Materials Program was responsible for collecting, transporting and safely disposing of the pharmaceutical waste collected. Pierce County sheriff's and public health staffers also assisted with monitoring and collecting the pharmaceutical waste accepted.

County officials decided to start collecting unused or unwanted medications because waterways can become polluted by flushing them down sinks and toilets. Wastewater treatment plants are also not designed to remove medicines from the wastewater.

Of the 397 vehicles surveyed this April, 62 indicated delivering waste from more than one source. The vehicles delivered it from a total of 468 sources, including 402 households, 55 farms (47 active and eight abandoned) and 11 businesses (two of the businesses delivering hazardous waste).

The average weight of waste delivered and collected per vehicle this spring was 85 pounds, an increase of 11 pounds over spring of '07. A total of 23,966 pounds of household waste was collected this time from 402 households, including a record-high 12,744 pounds of household hazardous waste and 11,222 pounds of non-hazardous latex paint. This was an increase of 3,340 pounds from the previous spring's event.

The average weight collected per household this spring was 60 pounds. The most notable household hazardous waste collected were 2,289 pounds of pesticides/poisons, 8,152 pounds of lead/oil-based paints, 506 pounds of caustics/corrosives, 814 pounds of solvents/thinners, 890 pounds of aerosols and 93 pounds identified as other.

A total of 919 pounds of hazardous waste was collected from two businesses, an increase of 25 pounds over the previous year's spring event. The average weight collected per business at the latest event was 459.5 pounds.

Fifty-five farms delivered a record-high 9,691 pounds of agricultural hazardous waste, an increase of 7,592 pounds over spring of '07. The average weight per farm in the most recent collection was 176 pounds. The most notable ag waste collected were the eight pounds of 2,4,5-TP silvex (herbicide) and 18 pounds of DDT (pesticide), both of which are listed as targeted/suspended and cancelled chemicals. The record-high pounds of ag waste collected can be attributed mostly to the large loads delivered from the eight abandoned farms being cleaned up.

Also collected this April were: About 500 gallons of waste oil, one 55-gallon drum of oil filters, 50 gallons of anti-freeze, 90 lead acid batteries, one pound of household hazardous batteries, about 47 appliances, 195 electronic-type items, 283 fluorescent-type bulbs, 216 tires, two tons of scrap metal, seven LP tanks and one 30-yard roll-off container of miscellaneous bulky trash items.

Additionally, participants delivered about three pounds of mercury thermometers and thermostats, each receiving a digital thermometer in exchange for their mercury thermometers. Those delivering latex paint received a plastic packet of waste paint hardener and information on proper drying and disposing of unwanted latex paint.

The majority of the participants surveyed stated concerns for the environment and family safety were the most important influential reasons for attending the event. The majority traveled between one and 20 miles to attend, and preferred the county continue to hold two hazardous waste collection events yearly. County officials are confident more than enough interest is being generated in the program to justify continuing to offer a second date.

The solid waste and recycling department plans to collect pharmaceutical waste with ag and household waste together again at this fall's clean sweep. Plans call for holding a business program in conjunction with the ag and household programs.