Post-flood hazardous material disposal ending in Schoharie County

Schoharie County residents have four more days to get rid of items like paint cans and chemical cont

Schoharie County residents have four more days to get rid of items like paint cans and chemical containers for free, as a project to collect hazardous waste from storm-battered properties will end Saturday.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set Oct. 15 as the final day for post-flood household hazardous waste collection, a program initiated in the days following Tropical Storm Irene’s visit to the Northeast.

The deadline may be news to folks in the Schoharie County town of Blenheim — where Town Supervisor Robert Mann Jr. never even learned residents could dispose of hazardous waste free of charge.

“The communication is absolutely horrible. It seems like there’s no big, overall effort, at least not that’s reaching us,” Mann said Tuesday.

Mann said efforts to pick up after the disaster have been led at the town level and so far, nobody from FEMA has even been to Blenheim yet.

“We seem to be out on an island, completely forgotten about,” Mann said of the town that lost homes, farms and roads when the storm steamrolled through the Schoharie Valley.

The Howes Cave transfer station, next door to the Montgomery-Otsego-Schoharie Solid Waste Management Authority offices, is serving as a waste collection point for the county’s flood recovery work.

MOSA director Dennis Heaton on Tuesday said the authority has received roughly 10 tractor-trailer loads of household hazardous waste following the flooding, which, under the guidance of EPA officials on the scene, is being taken to various vendors for disposal under a federal contract.

That work has been ongoing while contractors and municipal crews have dropped off another 11,000 tons of flood debris, including pieces of houses.

It could not be determined Tuesday why the decision was made to stop collecting hazardous waste and how much has been collected regionwide after the flooding.

But Heaton said it’s his understanding that disposal of items like pesticides and paint thinner has tapered off, leading to the EPA’s Saturday deadline.

Communities in Schoharie County are not nearly finished cleaning up homes and debris that riddles the landscape, but officials said the county’s Board of Supervisors plans to continue the collection process for non-hazardous debris through the end of the year.

It’s unclear if that will leave sufficient time to pick up the homes crushed against trees in the town of Esperance, where Supervisor Earl Van Wormer said “red tape” is hindering cleanup.

The town has been tracking down residents who fled the scene after their homes were destroyed to get their permission to remove the debris.

In some cases, people lost their homes and now find remains of somebody else’s home on their parcel.

But after getting several release forms from property owners allowing the town to remove the remains from their property, Van Wormer learned the forms are insufficient.

Property owners who want help to get these structures off their parcel have to send a letter to a federal coordinating officer requesting help and detailing their lack of insurance.

“There’s too much red tape, too much paperwork,” Van Wormer said. “We’ve got to put these people through this whole thing again who have just lost everything because of stupid intergovernmental requirements.”

There’s a local contractor willing to drop off waste receptacles in Esperance for free, but Van Wormer said the town may have to forego the help because it’s difficult to find property owners and get them to write a letter.

“We’re going to lose this donated service just because of all the red tape,” he said.

As it turns out, this coming weekend was going to serve as an annual household hazardous waste collection day in Schoharie County.

Heaton said that function is canceled but likely to be rescheduled.

“I’m sure there’s still a need out there,” he said.

Hazardous waste is to be taken to the transfer station at 2783 Route 7 in Howes Cave. It will be open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Saturday. According to the MOSA website, people can also call the EPA at 908-420-4437 to ask for direct pickup of household hazardous waste in flood-impacted areas.

Categories: Schenectady County

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