Earth Day Makes A Difference In West Barnstable
By: Laura M. Reckford
From maintaining the high quality of well water to proper hazardous waste and pharmaceutical disposal, the annual Earth Day session in West Barnstable this week offered important health and safety information for residents.
George Heufelder, director of the Barnstable County Health Department, explained that the county provides a range of services to protect the Cape’s groundwater, including well water testing. The topic was important for West Barnstable residents who do not have access to town water.
Mr. Heufelder said that one concern in well water is copper and lead contamination from old pipes. Another concern is the use of fertilizer and pesticides, as well as the proximity of the home’s septic system to the well.
If drinking water contains 10 parts per million of nitrate, that means the person is drinking water that contains one-quarter wastewater.
Mr. Heufelder discussed the importance of removing underground tanks from properties. "One in twenty homeowner tanks are leaking," he said.
Mr. Heufelder discussed the Right to Know law, which applies to storage of hazardous waste in town. Homeowners can check at the county health department to find out details about how hazardous waste is being managed at any site in town, for instance the skating rinks at the Hyannis Youth & Community Center.
The county also runs a Septic Betterment Loan program that allows homeowners in Barnstable County to borrow money from the county under a 20-year betterment program of payments to upgrade their septic system. The application to borrow the money, which is at five percent interest, is processed in one day, Mr. Heufelder said.
Mr. Heufelder cautioned attendees that when purchasing water filters to be clear about what contaminents they want to filter. Consumers can bring their water to the county lab at the Barnstable Superior Courthouse building in Barnstable Village before filtering and after filtering to ensure the filter is working to properly remove the contaminent of concern.
Because of funding issues, the town of Barnstable will not have a hazardous waste collection this year. Town Councilor Ann B. Canedy of Barnstable Village said she is planning to lead an initiative for the town’s fire and water districts to pitch in to pay the $11,000 it costs to have the collection this year.
Michael Maguire, who is in charge of proper hazardous waste and pharmaceutical disposal for the Barnstable County Extension Service said the collections are a relatively inexpensive way to keep improperly disposed hazardous waste from contaminating the town’s groundwater.
He runs hazardous waste disposals in all 15 towns on the Cape. A typical collection generates thousands of gallons of hazardous waste that is taken off Cape for disposal, Mr. Maguire said.
The most common product that is brought to a hazardous waste collection is paint, Mr. Maguire said. Oil-based paint takes of 66 percent of the volume of hazardous waste collections, he said.
At a recent hazardous waste collection in the town of Sandwich, Mr. Maguire said, three 18-wheeler trucks were needed to cart the waste away. Some people were brings up to 7 to 9 televisions to dispose of, including one man who disposed of a $5,000 two-week old television that his son broke with a lacrosse ball.
Mr. Maguire also leads a flare disposal program in Barnstable County. Older flares contain perchlorate, which has proven to be a thyroid inhibitor.
He advises people replace their old flares with LED models, which last longer.
The county also has a mercury collection program for thermostats and other mercury-containing objects; and a needle collection program, so needles are not placed into the trash to potentially injure trash collectors.
Mr. Maguire explained that pharmaceuticals are one type of hazardous waste that should be thown away so that it is incinerated at the SEMASS waste-to-energy facility in Rochester.
He advises removing pills from containers and mixing them with hand sanitizer before throwing them out. Others recommend mixing the pills into cat litter or coffee grounds before throwing them out.
A pill collection event will be held May 1 at the Barnstable police station.
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