Preparing for Wildfire Season in Nevada County – Week 4: Hazardous waste

NEVADA CITY, Calif. December 31, 2018 – “Out with the old – safely” is the theme for this week’s readiness story. Who doesn’t have an almost empty can of paint, motor oil, various cleaners and solvents or a stack of old batteries in a shed or garage? Now is as good a time as any to tackle the cleanup of these remnants of projects past.

We asked Nevada County’s Director of Environmental Health Amy Irani to explain what constitutes hazardous waste and how to properly dispose of it. Here’s what she had to say:

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Many residential homes with garages, tool sheds, storage sheds or other outdoor structures often become an inadvertent storage location for household hazardous waste or HHW. The HHWs can often be sources of fuel that add to the destructive force and devastation of wildfires. Some easy housekeeping and routine surveys of garages, tool sheds, storage sheds and other outdoor structures can eliminate the fuel sources.

First, we need to decide what exactly is Household Hazardous Waste (HHW)? The Department of Toxic Substances Control or DTSC utilizes the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) definition of Household Hazardous Waste as products containing hazardous substances that are used and disposed of by an individual rather than industrial consumers. These products include some paints, solvents and pesticides. In California, it is illegal to dispose of household hazardous waste in the trash, down the drain, or by abandonment. Household hazardous waste needs to be disposed of through a Household Hazardous Waste Program.

Common household hazardous wastes include but are not limited to:

  • Antifreeze
  • Batteries
  • Drain cleaners
  • Electronic Wastes (TVs, computer monitors, cell phones, etc.)
  • Glue and Adhesives
  • Household cleaners
  • Oven cleaners
  • Paints
  • Pesticides
  • Pool Cleaners
  • Solvents
  • Used Oil
  • Waste containing Asbestos
  • Wastes containing Mercury (thermometers, fluorescent lights, etc.)

In addition to those wastes listed above, household products that are hazardous waste can be identified from warnings on the product label. If the label information reads:

  • Danger
  • Poison/Toxic means it can be poisonous when ingested (by eating or drinking), absorbed through skin, or inhaled (breathed) – even a little bit
  • Corrosive/Acid means it can eat or wear away at many materials including living tissue
  • Reactive/Explosive – means it can be explosive or produce a deadly gas
  • Ignitable/Flammable – means it can easily catch fire
  • Environmental Hazard
  • Caution/Warning

Second, take an inventory of your garage, storage sheds or tool sheds of all of the materials listed. Identify any used or old gasoline fuels, used motor oils, used or spent paint solvent containers and determine if any unused solvent, gasoline or oils are necessary to keep in storage.

Once you have taken your inventory and decided on the items you want to dispose of, next step is to locate the closest facility to your location where you can safely transport the hazardous household waste and dispose of properly.

Remember, in California disposal of household hazardous wastes in the trash, down the drain or tossing by the side of the road is illegal act and as such, all residents need to take their HHW to an approved Household Hazardous Waste Facility or HHWF for proper disposal.

In Nevada County, we have the main approved HHWF which is the McCourtney Road Transfer Station and Recycling Center located at 14741 Wolf Mountain Road, Grass Valley, CA. The Household Hazardous Waste collection is open Friday-Sunday 8:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

In addition to the McCourtney Road Transfer Station, the North San Juan Transfer Station located at 10125 Flume Street in North San Juan, CA open Friday – Tuesday 8:30am – 4:30pm accepts tires, cardboard, oil and oil filters, lightbulbs and batteries.

The Washington Road Transfer Station located at 15886 Gaston Road in Washington, CA is open Friday – Sunday 8:30am-4:30pm and accepts tires, cardboard, oil and oil filters, lightbulbs and batteries.

This concludes Week 4 of 25, check back next Monday for “Brush clearing and disposal” – when and how to do it and what not to do!

Find previous stories in our special Ready for Fire Season section.