We wonder how many local residents knew about the big, once-a-year event last Saturday in Lake Placid - no, not the rugby or waterski tournaments. We're talking about Household Hazardous Waste Day at the town of North Elba's Recycling Center and Transfer Station.
You probably missed it, too, didn't you? It's not very well promoted.
One of our staff members bought a house that was once owned by an old auto mechanic, and the basement is full of unknown auto fluids, plus ancient weed killer and a mess of other toxic stuff. There's only one day a year to get rid of it locally, and every year he misses it. So it just sits there, probably polluting the household air with noxious fumes.
There is one more chance in 2014, though: Essex County has two Household Hazardous Waste Days a year, and the second is this Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. - but it's at the town of North Hudson's highway garage, almost an hour's drive away from Lake Placid. (Take I-87 south, get off at exit 29, right on Blue Ridge Road, left on Route 9 and right on Dump Road.)
They'll close it up strictly at 1 o'clock, you must show proof that you live in Essex County (a tax or utility bill will do), and businesses' waste is not allowed, but still, it's better than nothing - which is what neighboring Franklin County provides its residents.
When one of our staffers, who lives on the Franklin County side of Saranac Lake, called that county's transfer station in Lake Clear to ask about household hazardous waste disposal, the man there said, "Just take it to a junkyard." When informed that there are no junkyards around here, the guy was dumbfounded. The only thing he suggested was to take it to Essex County and lie about residency.
We don't recommend you do that. The Essex County folks are on the lookout for it because of their neighboring county's disregard.
Oil-based paint, solvents, pool chemicals, herbicides, pesticides, insecticide, gas-oil mixtures, acids, fertilizer - don't dump this stuff in the woods. This is the Adirondacks, and we all care too much about plants, animals and our own drinking water to poison our backyard. Yet that's the only alternative counties like Franklin leave their people. It's shameful.
So thank goodness the folks in Essex County show a little more sense in that regard. Even if you can't quite identify the stuff you have, the county invites residents to "bring your unknowns in for review." For more information, the county suggests you call Shannon at 518-523-9081 or Kirk at 518-873-3739.
We're sure it's not easy to arrange for getting rid of this kind of waste. If it was, recycling centers would be able to take it every day. Nevertheless, we hope someday they will be able to do just that. Two five-hour time windows a year is not enough.
Keeping toxins out of our water and soil ought to be more of a priority throughout the Adirondack Park. Maybe each homeowner isn't dumping all that much gunk in the woods, but it adds up. Environmental groups should be spending more of their time, money and attention finding ways to help us all keep our water, soil and air clean, instead of suing to stop homes being built on already-logged land in Tupper Lake, and holding that community's economy hostage in the process.
People in general want do the right thing with their waste, but they need to be given the option.