Residents of Sandwich, Mashpee, Bourne, and Falmouth came out to Sandwich High School on Saturday morning to properly dispose of their hazardous waste materials. Michael S. Maguire of Dennis headed up Saturday’s operation, which by 9 AM already saw cars lining up to the parking lot entrance.
This collection was one of 23 collections held on Cape Cod every year designed to eliminate the amount of hazardous material being disposed of incorrectly, such as being dumped onto the lawn. Doing this has serious consequences for the local environment.
“This concept is very simple,” Mr. Maguire said. “If you take a gallon of gasoline and dump it out into your backyard, a portion of that is going to end up in our drinking water.”
Mr. Maguire and his team are joined by workers from PSC, an environmental and industrial services company from Rhode Island, to sort and dispose of the waste that comes through the line. Some of the waste will be incinerated while some of it can be re-purposed into energy. About 60 percent of the volume of waste is expected to come from paint, while 15 percent is likely to be pesticides.
Items that are not accepted are non-hazardous materials, radioactive materials, and explosives. “Typically, people have common sense and don’t bring those items anyways,” Mr. Maguire said. “Generally what you’re going to see is what comes out of someone’s garage.”
However, Mr. Maguire has seen residents bring items such as an 85-gallon drum of DDT and a stun gun. For the stun gun, the resident was referred to the Sandwich police as those are illegal to possess.
In order to allow the process to run smoothly and to collect some data, Kalliope E. Egloff of Mashpee and David M. Quinn of Orleans asked the drivers a series of questions and checked the materials they brought to the collection.
“We only take stuff that they don’t take at the transfer station so residents don’t end up paying more in their taxes,” Ms. Egloff said. Waste disposal is expensive and costs the towns about $11,000 with that cost being divided between the four towns based on the percentage of households per town that dropped off waste.
Despite the cost of disposal, Mr. Quinn stressed why they hold these events. “All these people have a truckload of material. With all of the groundwater issues on the Cape, it’s really important to have this option.”
It is also important to inform residents of the collections being held. Covanta SEMASS, a resource recovery facility for southeastern Massachusetts, foots a $30,000 bill for fliers to be sent to all Cape Cod residents and businesses. Barnstable County pays for the remaining $5,000 that goes into the flier production.
Barnstable County also pays the wages of any staff working on collection day. Combined with the collections being subsidized out of the tax base, residents are able to bring their waste in for disposal without having to pay a surcharge.
Beyond the hazardous waste collections, Mr. Maguire stressed the importance of upcoming events like the National Prescription Take-Back Day on April 26. “We’re not the law, we’re environmental. It’s important to dispose of medications properly so that they’re not being flushed down the toilet and into our groundwater,” he said.
“The bottom line is, I understand that it’s not on the top of your list to come to a hazardous materials collection on a Saturday, but it makes a big difference,” Mr. Maguire said.
With the drinking water on Cape Cod being only about 20 to 40 feet underground, the implications of pouring gasoline on the lawn are dire.
“The Cape’s economy is based on a clean environment,” Mr. Maguire said. “If we can prevent further contamination, why wouldn’t you? It’s free.”
Number of Participants:
• 347 cars representing waste from 451 households participated
• 327 of the 347 were year-round residents
• 137 of the 347 were first-time participants
• 38 of the 347 brought waste that was left in their house from the previous owners
• 4 small business participated (at their own cost)
• 4,525 gallons of waste at a total weight of 20,525 pounds (just over 10 tons)
• 12 fifty-five gallon drums of pesticide
• 6 fifty-five gallon drums of gasoline
• 10 cubic yard boxes of flammable paints and stains
• 7 fifty-five gallon drums of flammable paint sludge
• 8 fifty-five gallon drums of aerosol containers