By Joel Hall
In an effort to keep harmful household waste out of the county's water supply, Keep Clayton County Beautiful, Inc., and the Clayton County Water Authority are hosting free Household Hazardous Waste Amnesty Day.
This Saturday, Clayton residents will be able to safely discard medicines and cooking grease, paints, pesticides, and other toxic chemicals for free.
This year's program will take place from 10 a.m., to 2 p.m., at the W.B. Casey Water Reclamation Facility, off Flint River Road in Jonesboro.
Edie Yongue, director of Keep Clayton County Beautiful, Inc., said her organization and the water authority have hosted the hazardous waste amnesty day for nearly a decade. She said the program benefits the environment, and keeps the price of water services reasonable at the same time.
"Water is free, but treatment is not," Yongue said. "When you put kitchen grease down the drain, all it does is harden, like cholesterol in your arteries. It then breaks down the infrastructure ... it is really expensive to repair.
"You've got to provide a proper outlet for this stuff," she continued. "If you don't have the money for sanitation pick up, [residents] are just going to find a cul-de-sac and dump it. We just need to be proactive."
Volunteers from the water authority and Keep Clayton County Beautiful will help residents discard household paints (latex and oil), cooking oil and grease, bleaches and chlorine, pesticides and herbicides, solvents and sealers, automotive and household batteries, drain cleaners, paint thinner, wood strippers, motor oil, transmission fluid, antifreeze, aerosols, fluorescent bulbs, oven cleaners, insect sprays and rodent poisons, fire extinguishers, propane and butane tanks, over-the-counter and prescription medications, and non-hazardous waste such as cleaners, polishers, and cosmetics.
Jim Poff, water reclamation department manager for the Clayton County Water Authority, said the agency is paying special attention this year to keeping medications out of the water supply. While it has not yet been proven that flushing old medicines down the drain has a significant impact on human health, fish populations are highly susceptible, he said.
"Fish have to live in that water, so the exposure is much higher," Poff said. "A lot of studies have been done showing that medicines with estrogenic compounds can cause the feminization of fish," which ultimately leads to lower fish populations, he added.
"Our analytical processes have gotten so much better over the last 10 years," Poff continued. "We're seeing pollutants that we haven't seen before, which are some of your medications, and personal-care products. At this point in time, there are no human effects in these parameters," however, "you want to try to keep your environment as clean as possible."
To further encourage residents to discard their waste properly, the Biofuels Racing Alliance will display a Mustang B100 bio-diesel racing vehicle. Yongue said the vehicle runs on the kitchen grease that many people run down their drains.
"We have a lot of race fans in this community," she said. "When you connect the fact that they are running this off alternative fuel, people get curious. I think that is a good draw."
Residents participating in waste amnesty day will enter the W.B. Casey Water Reclamation Facility at the back entrance, located at 8890 Roberts Road in Jonesboro. Participants will need to show proof of Clayton County residency, such as a driver's license or a water bill.
For more information, call (770) 477-3674.