With a year-long effort complete, the Ecology Action Center is excited to announce the success of the first-ever locally funded Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collection in McLean County. The September 29 event at the Interstate Center in Bloomington drew an unprecedented 1,951 cars carrying the wastes of nearly 3,000 area households. 161,640 pounds of hazardous waste materials were safely disposed of and prevented from entering our groundwater or surface water supplies.
Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collection is a critical service necessary to protect groundwater and surface water supplies from contamination. Unfortunately, in times of tight budgets, this need often goes unmet. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) traditionally has funded HHW collection events, offering assistance to a limited number of Illinois communities on an annual basis.
McLean County was fortunate to be the recipient of HHW funding for five years in a row, from 2002-2007, receiving 90% of the costs necessary to hold a HHW event. These events were well attended, drawing nearly 1600 households.
However, in recent years IEPA funding has become much more limited; in some years no funding was available at all. Nonetheless, the need for proper disposal continues. The Ecology Action Center receives more inquires about safe disposal of HHW than any other topic. But without local disposal options, much of this material is likely to be disposed of improperly, either poured down the drain or hidden in curbside trash to be dumped in the municipal solid waste landfill.
The September HHW event was the first to be funded completely by local resources; The Ecology Action Center led fundraising efforts for this private/public partnership, ultimately raising $143,079 to cover the full costs of the effort. 51% of the event funding came from McLean County, the Town of Normal, the City of Bloomington, and other McLean County municipalities. Contributions from individuals or families raised another 26% while sponsorships and contributions from businesses raised 11%. Finally, the We Care Twin Cities Half Marathon raised 9% of the needed funding for the event.
While a large turnout was anticipated and the EAC worked to take all possible steps to prevent long wait times, the demand ultimately exceeded the capacity of the event facility, resulting in long waits for many residents. Working closely with Bloomington Police, the EAC was able to bring all waiting vehicles off the street and onto the facility property before closing the event, 45 minutes after the scheduled ending time. While no one was denied entry, many could not wait out the long lines and were not able to dispose of their materials. Some people, hearing about the long lines, decided not to attend.
The need for more frequent HHW Collection is now clearly established as this is the only means to reduce wait times and better accommodate the needs of more residents while still providing the service in a cost-effective manner. Building on the success of the recent event, the EAC is now adjusting its focus to work towards more regular HHW collection.