“I guess I just have a passion for trash,” Patty Duguay replied when I observed that she seemed to know a great deal about hazardous materials management.

Duguay has been the director of the River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition since its founding in late 1997. The coalition has tackled a lot of health issues like tobacco use prevention and fitness; it has conducted community health assessments and laid the groundwork for what has morphed into the River Valley Arts Council – RVHCC is holistic in its view of wellness.

Much of the coalition’s work is education: Raising community awareness through weekly newspaper columns, presentations in classrooms and before organizations, local access television and community forums.

All those strategies will be in play for the coalition’s new initiative, a community pollution prevention program. RVHCC applied for and was awarded a DEP grant of nearly $35,000 to carry it out. Through April and May, Patty and company, like their counterparts in Farmington and Norway/South Paris, will be out there talking and writing about identification of hazardous waste materials and their disposal. The campaign culminates in an event: On Saturday morning, June 3, Region 9’s parking lot (pending board approvals) will be the site of a hazmat collection. Professionals will manage the actual disposal.

(And where, budget hawks will ask, did the DEP get that kind of money? It represents the River Valley’s share of a purse filled with 80 percent of the fines paid by mills for exceeding mandated limits of chemical emissions.)

Timing is everything

The June 3 collection comes on the heels of spring clean-up weeks: The last week of April and the first week of May for Rumford and the following weeks for other River Valley towns. The hope is that as people clean out their basements and barns, they’ll identify hazardous materials that should go to the June 3 collection.

What might these be? Solvents for clearing drains or cleaning ovens, chemical lawn fertilizers, insecticides and solvent-based glues, to name a few.

I was sad that mothballs are on the list, but brightened when Patty told me what will work as well: Lavender blossoms, rosemary, cedar blocks or chips, white peppercorns or mint.

My mind traveled to our basement and the old, almost-empty paint cans there: Take ’em to the June 3 collection? Wrong. Instead, call Patty at the coalition, 364-7408; she’ll tell you how to get rid of old paint.

In the coming weeks, Channel 7 will air a special segment on identifying hazmats in the home.

Need Help? Want to Help?

Not everyone will be able to haul the hazmats from their homes to the Region 9 parking lot. If you’re one who can’t, call the coalition for help. Members of Rotary are volunteering to pick up the materials and get them to the collection site. If you’re willing and able to join the Rotary volunteers, call 364-7408.

Collection of hazardous materials isn’t new. But, Patty said, “there has been a decline in participation.” Last fall I wrote about “thinking globally, acting locally” to save our environment. Here’s a chance to do just that. June 3 hazmat collection: Be there.

Linda Farr Macgregor and her husband, Jim, live in Rumford. She is a freelance writer and the author of “Rumford Stories.” Contact her at [email protected]