.....Advertisement.....
.....Advertisement.....

Toward a cleaner, greener county

-A A +A
By Katy Korkos

Solid Waste Division Manager Regina Wheeler has secured a grant from the New Mexico Environment Department for $20,000 for the construction of a collection station for used oil, household hazardous and electronic waste.Wheeler said the current storage tank at the landfill for used oil is adequate and does not leak, but the tank is installed in a lined trench that requires snowmelt and rainfall, which collects in the trench, be remediated. “We’re replacing the tank with a station,” Wheeler said. When the county’s new Eco Station is complete, permanent stations for the collection of many types of household hazardous waste will be established. “We’ll be able to take used motor oil, antifreeze and all kinds of household hazardous waste,” Wheeler said, adding that the Eco Station would also have a monthly event instead of the annual collection. At the county’s annual household waste collection, held on Sept. 7, 2007, thousands of items were collected that would otherwise have gone into landfills. Batteries, fluorescent tubes, latex paint and propane were among the items recycled, and oil-based paint, motor oil and other flammable liquids such as gasoline and paint thinners were collected for use as blended fuels. Only 20 percent of the material collected was sent for incineration. Wheeler said that the collection stations would take the place of the annual collection and increase the convenience to county residents of proper disposal.“That will increase recycling county-wide, divert more material from landfills and decrease the toxicity of waste.”The NMED announced the grants Jan. 4, as it awarded a total of  $135,000 in recycling and illegal dumping grants to seven communities. “Priorities for funding in 2008 include programs that eliminate or reduce illegal dump sites or prevent future illegal dumping and recycling programs which target motor oil, lead acid batteries cardboard or newspaper,” the news release stated.In the release, NMED Environmental Protection division director Jim Norton said, “We enjoy partnering with local entities to address issues that affect all of us ... These grants will reduce the amount of garbage in landfills, make scarce resources available for re-use and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.”Other communities receiving grants for recycling include Picuris Pueblo, for a recycling drop-off site; Lincoln County, for the purchase of two waste oil furnaces for use in heating the transfer station; the village of Melrose, for three recycling trailers; and the City of Carlsbad for the purchase of recycling roll carts for their pilot program.Wheeler said Los Alamos’ roll-cart recycling program has been successful in its first few months since the roll carts were delivered to residents, with more than 66 additional tons of material recycled rather than added to landfills. Each household in the county received a roll cart by the end of October.“July through September, we sent 277 tons of material for recycling to the Santa Fe Materials Recycling Facility,” she said, “and October through December the amount was 343 tons – a 40 percent increase.”Wheeler said the construction on the new Eco Station has slowed for the winter, but she is very excited to have the solar designers on board who will help to ensure that the new buildings are energy efficient. “We’re targeting LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold certification,” Wheeler said. “The solar system team is involved now, and they’re designing data interfaces with the solar system, to get real-time information on energy savings.”The certification is administered by the United States Green Building Council, which states on its website: “LEED-certified buildings have lower operating costs and increased asset value; reduce waste sent to landfills; conserve energy and water; are healthier and safer for occupants; and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.”Wheeler’s vision for the county’s future encompasses the creation of a sustainability department, which would oversee diverse areas of county operations, from environmental building to alternative energy. Water, land use, hydrocarbon independence and economic development are all addressed in the proposal Wheeler is drafting.The Solid Waste Advisory board was formed by the county council to recommend ways to involve and educate the community on solid waste management issues. It has several vacancies. County residents who are interested in serving on the board can call the county administrator’s office at 662-8080 or visit the county’s website www.lac-nm.us for an application or more information.The board will meet at 7 a.m. Jan. 31 in the office building at the landfill.