Hoping to cut the amount of hazardous waste that ends up in the Howard County landfill, the Public Works Department will build a drop-off site for residents' old paint, cleaning solvents and spent bug spray cans.
The estimated $110,000 facility at the Alpha Ridge Landfill in Marriottsville will accept a variety of household hazardous waste, probably on a monthly basis. It could be operating by May, officials say.
"The citizens' solid waste committee urged that this move forward right away, so we're trying to move forward and get it done," said James M. Irvin, public works director.
Solid waste experts say that household trash is the most common source of carcinogenic chemicals, such as those seeping from the Alpha Ridge Landfill.
Oil-based paint, paint thinner, spot remover, grease-cutting solvents and other hazardous materials are thrown into household trash bins and put out with the garbage.
Technically, such things are not permitted in the landfill. But there is no practical way of keeping them out once residents throw them in the trash, said Steven Hudgins, chief of the county's Division of Solid Waste.
Last week, Mr. Hudgins and others from his department met with contractor John F. Feezer Co. of Elkridge to work on plans for the building, which will provide temporary storage of the household hazardous waste.
Currently, the county accepts wet-cell vehicle batteries, propane tanks, antifreeze, motor oil and other automotive fluids at the Alpha Ridge Landfill.
The new facility will accept insecticides, herbicides, pesticides, paint and thinners, solvents, cleaning aids, fuel, photographic and swimming pool chemicals and other kinds of batteries.
The metal building will have a concrete floor made to resist chemical corrosion, and will include explosion-proof electrical fixtures.
Plans call for household hazardous waste to be collected in the building and then shipped to disposal facilities where it would be treated, burned or recycled.
Mr. Irvin said the county is going through the procurement process to find a hazardous waste contractor to remove the material.
The service itself could cost $100,000 a year, Mr. Irvin said, because there will be a large number and variety of containers and substances to sort and test before disposal.
Mr. Hudgins said that while state regulations do not allow such hazardous household substances to be dumped at a landfill such as Alpha Ridge, it is almost impossible to keep them out.
"Even the most responsible person sending us materials will send us containers that for the most part are empty, but there still is some residual left in the container," Mr. Hudgins said.
L. Scott Muller, a community activist and member of the Alpha Ridge Landfill Advisory Committee, was pleased that the county was making household hazardous waste disposal easier, but questioned the location of the facility.
"I'm very happy to see that it's going to be a drop-off point and not a once- or twice-a-year or a one-shot deal. . . . We'll get much more hazardous waste that way," Mr. Muller said.
But Mr. Muller also said the Marriottsville location is not convenient enough.
He said a more accessible site, such as a firehouse in Ellicott City, would encourage more people to use the new service.