Brent Freese of Baker Sanitary Service, Russ McMartin of Wallowa County Public Works, Darin Larvik of City Garbage Service, David Henry of Baker Sanitary Service and Union County Commissioner Steve McClure (seated) display the national award garnered recently by the Tri-County Household Hazardous Waste Program. The program, opened in 2011, earned praise for its emphasis on community partnership. BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH - The Observer
Communities in Northeast Oregon shared in a high honor recently, as the Tri-County Household Hazardous Waste Program was tapped for a national award.
The program, centered in a state-of-the-art intake building at the WastePro transfer station east of La Grande, safely disposes of noxious residential material ranging from drain cleaners and paint thinner to insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. Funded by a $3.17 per ton surcharge on trash disposal approved by voters, it serves Union, Wallowa and Baker counties.
This month, the North American Hazardous Materials Management Association named it the winner of the Government Partnership Award. Awards Chair Ray Carveth said in a notification letter that a spirit of cooperation among cities and counties makes the program stand out.
“A small community having occasional collection days is rather common. Three counties and their cities all working to make services available isn’t so common,” Carveth said.
Years in the planning, the program offers free disposal of residential waste products at the WastePro site in Union County and at satellite sites in Baker and Wallowa Counties. Products collected in Wallowa and Baker counties are shipped to La Grande for final disposal.
Union County Commissioner Steve McClure said building the program was no easy task. In addition to gaining voter approval and getting intergovernmental agreements signed, program leaders had to design a system that met with state Department of Environmental Quality requirements.
“The big issue was the small town geography. So many partners had to go together to make this work,” McClure said.
The main facility at WastePro, built by La Grande contractor Mike Becker, is owned by Union County but operated by City Garbage Service. Equipped with the latest in ventilation, drainage and fire protection systems, it opened in March 2011.
City Garbage Service and Baker Sanitary Service in Baker City run the program in La Grande and Baker City, respectively. Wallowa County government provides the service in Wallowa County.
Darin Larvik, owner of City Garbage Service, said he is pleased with the program’s success so far, and proud of the award.
“The community needs to see how the program’s come to fruition. It’s a good program,” Larvik said.
Though collection of residential waste products is free, there is normally a charge for disposal of hazardous commercial and farm chemicals. On Oct. 15-17, however, the program is offering free disposal of agricultural waste products.
Those wanting to participate in the two-day event are required to sign up by today. In La Grande, call City Garbage Service, 541-963-5451; in Baker City call Baker Sanitary Service, 541-523-2626; and in Wallowa County call Wallowa County Public Works, 541-426-3332.