By Edie Schmierbach
---- — MANKATO — Blue Earth County Household Hazardous Waste Facility’s crew had plenty of pigment on hand if they had wanted to paint the town after the close of the 2013 season.
When the site shut down at 6 p.m. Tuesday, the estimated tally was 145 55-gallon drums filled with latex paint. Another 80 drums contained mixtures of oil-based colors.
The barrels’ contents are leftovers from home projects by residents of Blue Earth, Nicollet, Le Sueur and Sibley counties. Homeowners brought the toxic, corrosive and reactive substances to the Summit Avenue building between April 2 and Oct. 29.
Regional program manager for HHWF Ken Frederick said 24 barrels of flammable liquids also were collected this season — a slight increase from last year’s numbers.
“We always have a fairly busy season,” he said.
More than 3,775 households were served between April and October, said Dave Kronlokken, supervisor of Blue Earth County’s solid waste division.
A cold April resulted in low numbers early in the season, but traffic picked up soon after the snow disappeared.
There is no drop-off fee for homeowners, whose taxes provide the service.
"People want to do the right thing when it comes to proper disposal of hazardous waste. They get their money’s worth and they feel good,” Frederick said.
Most of the waste material brought to the site can be recycled.
“The latex goes to Blaine, where Amazon Environmental reformulates it as a new paint or adds it into cement,” Frederick said. Oil-based paints are added to a blend of chemicals used as a fuel source.
HHWF is a drop-off site for pesticides used by households and in farming. This season netted more than 4,500 pounds of pesticides.
In the 22 years Frederick has been surrounded by hazardous material at HHWF, there has not been an explosion. The biggest accident has been a paint spill, he joked.
“This can be dangerous work but we’re all trained to handle the materials accordingly,” he said. HHWF closes during winter months, when heating costs would be prohibitive and homeowners ease up on major cleaning projects. The facility’s product reuse center also is closed until spring.
Arrangements may be made for hazardous waste disposal when situations arise during the off-season, for example when a family moves out of a house.
There are winter options for residents clearing out their garages to make room for their vehicles and homeowners in the middle of remodeling projects. Unwanted tires, major appliances and consumer electronics can be dropped off at the Blue Earth County Recycling Center in LeHillier between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Various disposal fees are charged.