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Cleaning up hazardous Household Waste

by Susan Simons

HUERFANO- Are you cleaning out the barn, shed, garage, or basement in anticipation of the new year?  If so you may find items that qualify as hazardous waste.

    Every home has some.  You may have a shelf full or a shed full.  Here is a partial list of products which can be toxic to humans, animals, and to our water, soil, and air:  paint, stripper, solvents, pesticides, weed killers, used motor oil, batteries, aerosols, roofing tar, propane and butane tanks, antifreeze, carburetor cleaner, brake fluid, rodent poison, fire extinguishers, mercury thermometers, compact fluorescent bulbs, expired medications, some household cleaning products.

    If thrown in the trash, dumped in the landfill, or poured down the sewer, storm drain or septic tank. these items may give off toxic fumes,  cause fire or explosions,  poison wildlife or pets, or get into waterways and then into the food chain

    In fact, we recently had a hazardous waste incident in Walsenburg.  On Wednesday, Nov. 19, a Pueblo disposal truck began giving off heavy yellow fumes and the driver felt ill.  The Walsenburg Police and Emergency Services, State Patrol, and HazMat teams handled the situation.  According to the police, “someone had dumped an acid in the trash,” which had combined with other liquids and caused the gas.  The Journal reported on this incident and wanted to end the article with advice about how to dispose of hazardous waste. Here is what we have found.

    About 26 counties and 12 cities in Colorado have household hazardous waste (HHW) collection programs.  They contract with private firms which dispose of the items safely. Most will only accept HHW from residents of their own counties.  Pueblo collects every other year while El Paso County has year-round collection. Huerfano, Las Animas, and surrounding counties do not collect HHW.  John Martinez is Environmental Health Director for Huerfano and Las Animas Counties and Terri Blessman is the Environmental Health Specialist in Walsenburg.  Both agree that HHW is a problem we have not yet solved.  So what can we do with these products?

    The Pueblo City-County Health Department publishes a recycling guide on their website at    The guide lists locations which take anti-freeze, batteries, thermometers, compact fluorescent light bulbs, propane tanks, motor oil, paint, concrete, asphalt, and printer cartridges.  They also list locations which charge fees to take computers, televisions, tires, and so on.   The Habitat for Humanity Restore at 200 S, Santa Fe in Pueblo takes all reusable building materials and products.  Home Depot and Lowes accept compact fluorescent bulbs.  The Colorado Department of Public Health has good tips about HHW  on their website at

    What about the other toxic items and what about a long term plan?  Apparently, counties can contract with companies like Curbside, Inc.  Based in Denver, they are a collection service that will contract with counties and  cities.  For instance, they contract with Routt County to run a HHW pick-up every six weeks or so in spring and fall with a minimum of 15 households each run.  The county pays a fee and the household a small co-payment. Or Curbside might run a mini-event in a city or county where they park a truck on a given day and receive HHW from a minimum of 50 households.  Curbside specializes in working with cities or counties to come up with a plan that suits their budget and needs.

    Well, what about our county?  According to John Galusha, County Administrator, Huerfano County Commissioners are considering starting a household hazardous waste pick-up such as this once a year at the new Waste Transfer Station. ­­­