Anne Koliha of Harmony, at left, and Brenda Pohlman of Caledonia sorted through hazardous waste products and receptacles at the recent Fillmore County Household Hazardous Materials Collection. Both are employees of the Fillmore County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).
Anne Koliha of Harmony, at left, and Brenda Pohlman of Caledonia sorted through hazardous waste products and receptacles at the recent Fillmore County Household Hazardous Materials Collection. Both are employees of the Fillmore County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).
The steady stream of cars going in and out of the Fillmore County Resource Recovery Center was testimony that another huge assortment of household hazardous waste materials made its way to the site this past week. It was the semi-annual opportunity for people to clean out and safely dispose of unwanted "stuff" from the basement, garage and sheds.

Residents dropped off everything from paint and lawn care products to automobile-related items. It's an easy drop-off for the "donors" - just drive up and the items are cheerfully removed from the vehicles by county employees who "volunteer" to staff the event, taking a break from their usual jobs.

These individuals act as either unloaders, meeting and greeting the residents who are dropping off, or as sorters who separate the materials into categories such as paint and flammables, pesticides, glues and fuels. New cans of paint are set aside and donated for use by others in need of those products.

Sometimes the sorting is not finished on the first day; in that case, some of the workers will return and complete the sorting and boxing on the second day. Finally, the materials are shipped to various locations around the country where they will be properly disposed of, depending on where the particular processing plants are located.

There are always some unidentifiable contents, which occurs because sometimes residents put a product into a container that was obviously not the original one - and then do not label it. In those cases, the volunteers will separate the items and send them to another "station" where they will be PH-tested for acid or base drain cleaner.

Oversight of the operation is one of the jobs of Kim Nelson, who works at Winona County Environmental Services. Fillmore County has a contract with Winona to provide for this supervision and expertise. Nelson said that workers at the site are protected from harmful effects of the materials by wearing steel-toed boots, gloves and aprons. In addition, all of the large doors at both ends of the building are left open during the event to provide as much cross-ventilation as possible.

The products are accepted at the site from noon to five on the first Tuesday of May and again in October. Residents are encouraged to save and safely store the chemicals and other hazardous materials they would like to discard, in anticipation of next spring's collection.