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New hazmat center may not be pretty, but it is practical

The roof and exterior are about to be installed on the county’s new Household Hazardous Waste Facility. (Michael McNickle/Clatsop County)
By Cindy Yingst, Thursday, July 11, 2019

What do paint, fluorescent lights, thermometers, motor oil and batteries have in common?

They’re all hazardous materials found in the average home. They can pollute the air, ground or water table and potentially spark fires or chemical burns.

The county and its partners are in the final stages of constructing a new household hazardous waste facility where all county residents can dispose of these and other products free of charge.

The drive-through, 1,600-square-foot solar-powered center took 17 tons of rebar, 80 yards of concrete and 10 months to construct. A grand opening will be held early next month.

“I don’t know if it will be pretty, but it will be functional,” said Michael McNickle, the county’s director of environmental and public health.

This week, workers were putting up the exterior skin and insulation and will move to adding the interior bells and whistles after that.

The household hazardous waste facility had been in the planning stages for five years before McNickle was hired in 2014.

“It’s been five years of my life,” he said. “I put the pedal to the metal when I got here by pressing folks. We needed to do this.”

The Department of Environmental Quality provided a $77,000 grant to offset its requirements in constructing the county’s $1.2 million project.

First came a lease for the property owned by the city of Astoria across from Astoria High School’s stadium and adjacent to Recology’s landfill and transfer station on Williamsport Road.

Construction began in October.

Because the facility is on a former landfill, there were many DEQ requirements, including sinking beams more than 70 feet deep to ensure they went through the filled land and into bedrock.

Next came installation of methane detection piping before the concrete slab could be laid. Then there was installation of a liner to prevent any methane from seeping up into the building. No methane was detected during the installation. The concrete floor was poured in early June.

The facility is a collaboration between the county, Recology Western Oregon, the county’s cities and several community groups.

Without it, county residents have nowhere to take toxic household products, which means they could end up in the regular trash stream, potentially poisoning the environment, or, worse dumped directly into drains or onto the ground.

Until the facility opens, the county has an agreement with Tillamook County that allows Clatsop residents to dispose of their waste at a facility there. But that is, admittedly, a long way to go, McNickle said. “Most people now know we’re building our own and holding on to it.”

The county is making it easy for residents to use the facility. There will be no charge and drivers don’t have to get out of their vehicles. An employee will remove the material from the vehicle, assess it and place it into the proper container for destruction or recycling, which will be done off-site. Very little will be held at the facility overnight.

“The most exciting thing is seeing where it is now from where it was,” McNickle said of the project. “It used to be vacant property that was unusable because of the old landfill.”

Workers prepare to sink a piling 70 feet through the landfill into bedrock. (Michael McNickle/Clatsop County)

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