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Sweep cleans up ag, other waste in area

The downward trend in waste collection continued at this spring's Pierce County Clean Sweep event, reaffirming the program's ongoing effectiveness.

A total of 15,074 pounds of agricultural, household and business hazardous waste collected at the April 1 event compared with 20,418 pounds during the spring sweep a year ago. A report on sweep results was made available by the county's solid waste and recycling office last week.

The continuing decline (there were 33,412 pounds collected in the spring of 2004) has been attributed to technological advances in agriculture, meaning farmers don't store as much ag chemical products anymore. This is mainly because those chemicals are available in more concentrated forms today. Packaging innovations, returnable containers and custom application are other factors contributing to farmers managing their ag chemical usage ever more efficiently.

Of the 191 participants at this April's Clean Sweep, only 15 defined their waste as ag waste and just 16 defined it as both ag and household waste. The vast majority, 158 participants, indicated theirs was household waste; two were unsure of what type of waste they were delivering.

Additionally, three non-ag businesses and one ag business attended the sweep this spring. No businesses were in attendance at the 2005 spring event.

The household waste constituting the biggest share of this April's overall collection amounted to 14,223 pounds. It was separated into the following categories identified in the report: 2.2 pounds of PCBs, 1,400 pounds of pesticides/poisons, 419 pounds of caustics/corrosives, 76 pounds of solvents/thinners, 337 pounds of aerosols, 31 pounds of dioxins, 3,597 pounds of lead/oil-based paint, 7,775 pounds of latex paint, 500 pounds of waste oil and 86 pounds of household waste defined as "other." The average weight of waste collected per household was 82 pounds.

The most notable ag waste collected was 30 pounds of atrazine, which is on the list of banned, suspended, canceled or targeted chemicals. The average weight of waste collected per farmer was 15 pounds.

The three non-ag businesses delivered 298 pounds of waste, while the one ag business delivered 78 pounds of pesticides.

Approximately 370 gallons of waste oil, one 55-gallon drum of oil filters, 25 gallons of anti-freeze and 100 lead acid batteries were collected. This spring's collection also included: 39 appliances, 65 electronic type items, 720 fluorescent type bulbs, 40 tires, three tons of scrap metal and over 30 yards of miscellaneous trash. Approximately two pounds of mercury thermometers and thermostats were taken in as well.

Participants who attended the April 1 sweep were surveyed and most said concerns for their family's safety and the environment were their primary reason for attending. The majority traveled between one and 15 miles to attend the event. Approximately 75 percent preferred the county continue holding two such waste collections yearly.