by DAVID ERICKSON email@example.com
The Missoula City Council on Monday night voted to authorize the mayor to sign an interlocal cooperation agreement between the Missoula Valley Water Quality District, Missoula County and the city to establish a household hazardous waste collection facility on city-owned property near the wastewater treatment plant on Reserve Street.
Since 1993, the City of Missoula has collected 56,925 gallons of flammable oil-based liquids and 18,480 gallons of pesticides and poisons during the once-a-year household hazardous waste collection event. All that stuff was kept from being poured down drains, gutters or dumped in the landfill, where it could eventually seep into local streams, rivers and aquifers.
Thanks to donations of $125,000 from Phillips 66 and $50,000 from Republic Services, Missoula will soon have a new permanent facility to collect household waste and increase the number of collection events so people don’t have to store the hazardous and sometimes dangerous material all year.
The Missoula City Council’s public works committee discussed the issue this week.
“We have long dreamed of constructing a dedicated facility for the collection program and conducting more frequent collection events throughout the year,” said Missoula Valley Water Quality District supervisor Peter Nielsen. “The donations by Phillips 66, Republic Services and the City make it possible to move forward this year.”
Since 1993, the Water Quality District has held a two-day event every September when people can drop of toxic materials. Nearly 1,500 people show up every time, and the toxic waste has to be stored in city shops until the pesticides can be incinerated and things like waste oil, antifreeze and mercury can be recycled. Last year, the city collected 3,000 pounds of pesticides, 2,800 gallons of flammable liquids, 700 gallons of antifreeze and 2,300 gallons of waste oil.
“It’s a pretty good haul but we’ve always sought to improve the program,” Nielsen told the public works committee. “We’ve always dreamed of being able to host more frequent events. Frankly, Missoula is behind other cities in the region that do more frequent events.”
He said the city gets calls all the time from people wanting to drop off hazardous materials because, for example, a relative died and they are cleaning out the house.
“All we can do is tell them to wait until September,” Nielsen explained. “That’s OK for some folks, but it means you have to keep it in your house or your garage or your shed and wait for up to a year. It continues to pose a hazard to your family and pets or community if there is a fire in the house. The reality is some people just can’t wait. The reality is a lot of it does get thrown in the landfill or dumped down the drain, which we’re trying to avoid.”
The new facility will provide for improved safety, traffic flow, waste segregation and secondary containment during collection events.
“For many years this has been out of reach for us and money has been the main barrier,” Nielsen said. He hopes to have the new facility completed by this winter.
“Expansion of the household hazardous waste collection program is another important step in our work to protect the community’s water resources,” said Dale Bickell, the city’s chief administrative officer.
Michael Kuntz, a pipeline supervisor with Phillips 66, said the company’s employees volunteer with the waste collection events every year, so they wanted to help with a new facility.
“It also aligns well with our company’s goal of supporting safety and environmental initiatives in the communities where we operate,” he said.
Chad Bauer of Republic Services noted that the waste management company is a strong supporter of the program as well.
“It keeps toxic materials out of the landfill, protects water quality and public health, and benefits the communities in which we do business,” he said.
The Water Quality District Board will consider the district’s annual budget at a future meeting, which will include budgets for construction and operation of the facility in the coming fiscal year. This budget must also be approved by the City Council and County Commissioners.