Changes have been made to the way city residents can dispose of hazardous household waste this year.
The Niagara County Department of Public Works is offering vouchers until Aug. 31 for those trying to get rid of common contaminants, including oil-based paints, light bulbs, aerosols, gasoline and mercury-based products.
The vouchers are dispensed free of charge for those carrying 50 pounds or less of waste, but residents are required to transport the materials to the Hazman facility, 177 Wales Ave. in Tonawanda in private vehicles and pre-register for certification. There is a limit of one voucher per household.
Every pound over 50 results in a 75-cent charge. Any electronics, like computers or televisions, are assessed at 50 cents per pound.
The voucher system will apply across Niagara County, however, the city of Lockport and the city of North Tonawanda will each host a pre-scheduled drop-off event this fall, in addition to the vouchers. There are 400 spots reserved and each event requires registration a month in advance.
Legislator John Syracuse, R-Newfane, chairman of the Niagara County Legislature's infrastructure committee, said the elimination of a city of Niagara Falls drop-off event was a result of reductions in state funding.
"The state, from my understanding, has pulled back some of the funding on requiring these companies that produce these products that were now deemed to be hazardous ... to handle these on the recycling end," Syracuse said.
He said the infrastructure committee has not discussed the issue, but in the future would likely examine whether drop-off events will be eliminated and replaced with the voucher system.
Mayor Paul Dyster said the city would evaluate whether it could orchestrate its own drop off, something that would cost nearly $30,000 but the regulatory logistics required to put on the event are prohibitive. The staff that handle, assemble and transport the materials must be certified.
"It’s not something we have budgeted or put on before," he said. "Under the circumstances, given the lateness of the hour, it would difficult."
Even if city lawmakers would be interested in pursuing the event, Dyster said it would beg a question: "Why are we paying for our event when the other two communities are getting their's for free?"
Tonawanda is a "really really long haul for somebody, not just from Niagara Falls, but Lewiston, Youngstown, Wilson and so on," Dyster said. The mayor said his administration has some concern that the voucher program will spur increased improper disposal.
"We would encourage people to be patient," he said. "If this isn’t going to work for them it’s not an excuse to do the wrong thing and dump hazardous materials into the environment."
John Caso, the city's director of public works, said funding for the programs had dried up on the county end.
"We had it for many years, until this year, when we were notified the funding wasn’t there," he said.
But Caso noted his department still accepts television, computer and other electronic drop-offs during regular weekday business hours at its headquarters, 1785 New Road. Residents disposing of the material will need to check in with public works staff and are limited to three drop-offs per household.
The voucher program and drop-offs operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. Registrations can be filed at www.RethinkYourWaste.com, or by calling (716) 439-7250.
Full disposal cost schedule for voucher program:
• For every pound over over 50 pounds, 75 cents.
• Latex paint, 75 cents per pound; electronics, 50 cents per pound; waste oil, 75 cents per pound.
• Fire extinguishers, $10 each; propane tanks, $5 each; tires, $10 each; smoke detectors, $10.
• Ammunitions and explosives are not accepted.
TO SIGN UP
• Registrations can be filed at www.RethinkYourWaste.com, or by calling (716) 439-7250.