(Access Bannock County, November 7, 2023)
More than 10,000 lbs. of hazardous waste were diverted out of the Fort Hall Mine Landfill this year, protecting local drinking water from contamination.
This was done through Bannock County’s Household Hazardous Waste Days, a program that allows residents of the county to properly dispose of their hazardous waste for free.
Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Days are held on the first Saturday of the month from April to October each year. The program began 31 years ago to make it simple for Bannock County residents to properly dispose of their hazardous waste and, in turn, protect the aquifer.
“Protecting the environment is a top priority at the landfill, and this program is one of the best ways we accomplish that. We’re happy to see people take advantage of this free program,” said Dillon Evans, Bannock County’s Landfill Operations Manager.
What started as a one-day event held each year in the City of Pocatello’s Sanitation Department grew into the program we know today. In 1995, the collection days were moved to the Fort Hall Mine Landfill, and more collection days were added to the schedule.
“Over the years, we’ve seen participation grow steadier, which is great. We’re always trying to reach more people because that means less hazardous waste ends up in our regular waste, which means less contamination,” Evans said.
In 2023, more than 1,300 vehicles from households across Bannock County participated in the collection days. Typically, collection days see about 180-200 people.
Used oil was the most commonly disposed of hazardous waste this year, with 3,300 gallons collected in 2023. Antifreeze was the next most common waste, with 800 gallons collected, followed by 6,220 lbs. of pesticides and herbicides.
Much of the hazardous waste is repurposed or recycled for other uses. Idaho-based company Sterling Battery reclaims the used batteries, and Thermo Fluids collects and repurposes the used oil and antifreeze. The remaining hazardous waste is sorted, packaged, and sent to an incinerator facility for proper destruction.
Groundwater Remediation Efforts
Long before the HHW program and before Bannock County took over the landfill, residents disposed of their hazardous waste with their regular trash in an unlined cell. In 1991, experts found that this practice caused an uncontrolled release of chemicals into the environment, contaminating the groundwater. Bannock County closed the unlined cell and began investigating ways to remedy the contamination.
In 2002, the county installed a groundwater remediation system to remove harmful chemicals. More recently, Bannock County partnered with CDM Smith, a private engineering and construction firm, to monitor contamination and provide recommendations for actions the county can take.
CDM Smith’s latest risk assessment showed that, for the majority of people in the surrounding area, private well water is safe to drink. However, seven domestic wells may pose a health risk, and those property owners and tenants are regularly notified.
“We’re trying to fix a problem that Bannock County inherited. As Commissioners, we are willing to commit funds to improve the situation that we’re in because the health of the environment and our residents is most important. That’s why we continue to offer this free service every year, and we hope more and more people will make use of it,” said Bannock County Commissioner Ernie Moser.
Since 2018 alone, Bannock County has committed more than $10 million to mitigate the contamination. Learn more about the prevention and remediation efforts the County has taken to protect residents’ drinking water by visiting bannockcounty.gov/landfill.
How to Store and Dispose Hazardous Waste
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, considers products that can catch fire, react, or explode under certain circumstances or items that are corrosive or toxic as household hazardous waste. Common hazardous products include paint, cleaners, oils, batteries, and pesticides.
Bannock County and the EPA recommend the following when handling, storing, and disposing of household hazardous waste:
- Carefully follow any instructions for use and storage provided on the product label.
- Store hazardous waste in the original containers with the original product labels.
- Never pour a hazardous chemical into a storm drain, down the sink, or onto the ground.
- Never put hazardous waste with your regular trash pick-up.
- Properly dispose of hazardous material at the Fort Hall Mine Landfill on the designated collection days.
Visit bannockcounty.gov/landfill to learn more about Household Hazardous Waste Days.