The popular decade-old La Crosse County program to keep household hazardous materials out of the waste stream is on track for a 10-year renewal.

The La Crosse County Board’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee voted unanimously Monday to give preliminary approval to a 10-year contract with the county’s 18 municipalities to fund the household hazardous materials collection program.

The program gives county residents a place for safe disposal of toxic, caustic and otherwise hazardous items they might have around the house, including everything from pesticides and herbicides to bleach and cleaning solvents to lead paint and electronics. The program is offered free to county residents, and also is available for a fee to businesses and people from outside the county.

“I think if we discontinued that program there’d be an outcry, a real outcry,” said Hank Koch, the county’s solid waste director.

This was the last year of the 10-year contract, and the county and municipalities agreed to a 25 cent per capita increase in the contributions to the program, which had run a deficit five years in a row because of high usage. For 2016, the program had total expenses of $483,136, a $70,386 deficit. This year’s increase in funding was projected to cut that deficit in half.

The new contract, which must be approved by the full county board and the governing bodies of the county’s municipalities, would phase in increased contributions to alleviate the deficit and put in automatic cost-of-living increases in the contributions.

The contract features annual increases of 5 cents per capita for five years, bringing the per-capita contribution to $1.50 in 2022, after which the program contributions would go up 2 percent per year. For 2018, that 5-cent increase would have an impact ranging from $27 for the town of Washington to $2,600 for the city of La Crosse. The county’s contribution, meanwhile, would rise $5,853, matching the total for the municipalities.

Randy Nedrelo, the county’s special waste manager, said he has sent the proposed contract changes to all the municipalities and has attended numerous city, village and town meetings. “I have not received any negative comments on it,” he said, noting that some municipalities already have gone on record in support of the new contract.

Sawdust

Starting Oct. 2, the county landfill will no long accept significant amounts of sawdust in loads of wood waste, and sawdust will no longer be taken to Xcel Energy’s waste-to-energy incinerator on French Island.

The change was precipitated by several issues. The sawdust clogs the drainage on the wood processing pad at the landfill, and the sawdust can present a health hazard for workers at the landfill and the incinerator, as well as being an explosion hazard at the Xcel plant.

Sawdust can still be disposed of at the landfill, but it will go directly into the landfill rather than going to the incinerator first. The cost of disposing of sawdust will be $62 per ton, more than twice the current $27 per ton charge for wood waste.

Customers who deliver loads of waste wood to the landfill’s processing pad containing excessive amounts of sawdust will have to pay a $75 fee to have the sawdust removed, in addition to the $62 per ton landfill fee.

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Randy Erickson covers arts and entertainment and county government for the La Crosse Tribune. Contact him at 608-791-8219 or randy.erickson@lee.net.

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