Household Hazardous Waste

Persevering in Sandy’s Wake

By Sophia Kelley

Hurricane Sandy is the first emergency response that I have been involved with since coming to the EPA and the experience has given me a new appreciation for the level of commitment and dedication of my colleagues. We, like thousands of others in the New York/New Jersey area, are continuing our efforts to recover from the impacts of the super storm. While all of us have been affected to some degree, EPA’s on-scene coordinators and other emergency responders reported to work and spent long days helping others rather than attending to their own homes that may have been damaged or lacked power. In addition, they often face hazardous situations while assessing chemical or oil spills and abandoned fuel tanks.

In emergency situations, the EPA typically works in collaboration with the lead organization, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and with state and local governments to help protect public health and the environment before, during and after the event. From overflight surveys of the storm-damaged areas to supervising emergency scuba operations repair of damaged equipment at a wastewater treatment plant, the EPA has been involved in Sandy recovery efforts from all angles. For daily updates on our work, see: http://epa.gov/sandy/response.html.

View of a typical sand pile stored at Jacob Riis Park in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

My role has been more behind the scenes as I am assigned to communication efforts organized out of our response center in Edison, New Jersey. But last Friday I had the opportunity to visit Jacob Riis Park in Queens where the city is staging an enormous amount of the hurricane wreckage in what used to be the parking lot. Between two staggering towers of fetid debris, a battered green sign states, “This Way to the Beach.” A year ago I visited that very beach with my friend and played in the sand with her two little girls. I wonder if we’ll be able to return next year.

Now the sand is piling up in the parking lot. The storm deposited enormous quantities of sand in city streets. The city has cleared it and has possible plans for its beneficial reuse. Rather than simply carting it away with the other debris to a landfill, the idea is to sift the sand and then potentially use it at other locations. The EPA is assisting the city by sampling the sand to make sure it meets the criteria for reuse.

Since the storm the EPA has also been collecting household hazardous waste in the New York area. Crews are canvassing flood-impacted neighborhoods and will continue to pick up common household items such as paints, pesticides and household cleaners for separate management and disposal. Preventing such dangerous chemicals from mixing with the other trash is important for long-term disposal of the rest of the storm-related material.

Find out more about our household hazardous waste collection in NYC, visit: http://epa.gov/sandy/hazardouswastepickup.html.

If you have questions related to EPA’s work after Hurricane Sandy, please submit them in the comment section below or call our hotline, 1.888.283.7626.

About the author: Sophia is a public affairs specialist in her first year of the Environmental Careers Program. She has lived in Canada, Texas, Chicago, Poland, Central America, and now resides in Brooklyn.  Sophia has an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and recently earned an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Before joining EPA, she worked as a freelance writer, an itinerant teacher, and at a newspaper in Costa Rica.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Spring Cleaning and Greening: How to Get Rid of Your Old Electronics and Household Hazardous Waste

By Dan Gallo

Click the map to find HHW and e-waste collection events near you!It’s that time of  year again – time to clean out old items from those closets, basements and garages!

In your spring cleaning, you’ll likely come across old electronics – like TVs, computers, printers, scanners, fax machines, and cell phones – or Household Hazardous Waste – like paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, and pesticides – and you may not be sure how to properly dispose of them.

Electronic products are made from valuable resources and highly engineered materials, which require energy to mine and manufacture.  Reusing and recycling electronics conserves natural resources and energy and averts any pollution involved in the manufacturing process. Some of the materials in electronics (such as lead, nickel, cadmium, and mercury) could pose risks to human health or the environment if disposed of improperly.

Leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable, or reactive ingredients are considered to be household hazardous wastes.  These too require special care when you’re purging them from your home, so resist the inclination to leave them on the curb with the rest of your trash, and do not pour such liquid products down the drain!
If you have old items like these, they can be taken to upcoming household hazardous wastes collection events.  Used electronics can also be taken to certain household hazardous wastes collection events.

The counties of southeastern Pennsylvania have recently developed a new, interactive web map to inform residents of upcoming HHW and Electronics Collection events near them.  The Mid-Atlantic Region’s eCycling web page also has links to electronics recycling information in each Mid-Atlantic State and the District of Columbia.

Find out more about eCycling here!  What are you doing with your old electronic devices and household hazardous wastes?

About the Author: Dan Gallo has been with EPA since 1989 and has been the Electronics Recycling Coordinator for the region’s Land and Chemicals Division since 2007.  He has also served as Enforcement Coordinator for the region’s TSCA Lead-Based Paint Program.  Dan has also been involved in sustainability partnership activities with federal agencies and private institutions, along with a federal green building certification project.  When not in the office, Dan likes running, golf and volunteer work.  He and his family reside in Brookhaven, PA.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

A Community’s Calm, A Mother’s Fury

By David Kluesner 

Pompton Lakes: slammed consecutively by Hurricane Irene/Tropical Storm Lee

Late August and early September usually epitomize the lazy days of doing nothing or heading to the beach, barbecues and family get-togethers over Labor Day.  Not this summer. Not for North Jersey after Hurricane Irene hit and then a sucker punch landed in the form of Tropical Storm Lee.  Mother Nature attacked furiously on August 28, sending the waters of the Ramapo, Passaic and Pequannock Rivers over their banks to record levels.  All the networks and CNN carried as their top story a flooded home ablaze in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, where firefighters had to swim to the house to respond. 

Pompton Lakes is a community I know so well through my work on the DuPont Pompton Lakes Works site cleanup.  I was part of an EPA team deployed to help with the U.S. government’s response and recovery efforts.  FEMA’s mission assignment for us was to collect household hazardous waste, retrieve displaced drums and containers of hazardous chemicals, and to help residents remove oils and chemicals from their flooded basements.  Paterson, Lake Hiawatha, Wayne, Pompton Lakes and so many other North Jersey communities calmly, with strength and resolve, rose to the challenge to respond, unite, once again, to rebuild and move on.  More

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.