Umatilla County collected 12 tons of hazardous household waste at its September drop-off drive, topping every other event in the state.
The DEQ is suggesting other counties emulate the program.
Gina Miller in the county’s planning department planned and coordinated the Sept. 22 free disposal of household hazards ranging from old paint to car batteries to medications. She delivered a report summarizing the event’s outcomes Wednesday to the county board of commissioners.
Miller said 502 vehicles arrived that day to the collection area at the Pendleton Convention Center parking lot with 24,000 pounds of hazardous household waste, 38 gallons of needles and 72 pounds of prescription medications. She said the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality reported this was the most successful collection event statewide in 2018.
“We succeeded and bypassed all of our goals at this second collection event,” Miller said, referring to the prior event from 2016.
These waste collections cost $65,000-$80,000, Miller told the board, but a DEQ grant covered the cost, and contractor Clean Harbors Environmental handled all the waste. Making the event a success, she said, took planning and outreach beginning in April, and buy-in from community partners.
Solid waste franchises in the county advertised the event on their billings, and the county sent flyers to churches, doctor’s offices and pharmacies.
Arne’s Sewer & Septic of Pendleton provided portable toilets and hand wash stations, and the Pendleton Country Club provided golf carts for workers to zip from one end of the event to the other.
Miller said traditional local media partners played a significant role promoting the event, but other media also helped.
“One of our most effective advertising platforms this year was embracing media, social media,” Miller said.
The effort also received a $1,000 Wildhorse Foundation Rapid Response Grant. Miller said that money paid for 1,000 refrigerator magnets to promote the collection at farmers markets and the county fair.
The county also used the money to buy bright green T-shirts for volunteers, including local FFA youth, who directed traffic at the event. Those T-shirts helped volunteers stick out for safety.
And Pendleton police dedicated an officer to ensure the security of certain medications, such as painkillers.
The locals bringing in the waste never had to leave their vehicles, she said, because Clean Harbors did that work. Clean Harbors also had chemists on site to test questionable material for proper disposal.
County commissioners John Shafer and Bill Elfering said the 12 tons of waste was impressive. Eric Clanton with the DEQ in Pendleton agreed. He is a natural resource specialist and the agency’s liaison to Umatilla County.
“Pretty much rest assured,” he told the board, “going on from here we’re going to use the model she put together,” he said.
Miller also told the board there will not be a waste collection in 2019. She said holding one every other year works better.
Clanton after the meeting said he is proposing the DEQ have Miller talk to other communities throughout the state on her model for holding waste collections. Miller created the plan, he said, and should be the one who teaches it.