Oconto, Marinette counties plan Clean Sweep

Grant worth $27,200 to help effort

Warren Bluhm, wbluhm@newmedia-wi.com

Marinette and Oconto counties will be teaming up for an agricultural and household Clean Sweep program to help farmers and homeowners dispose of hazardous wastes.

The Oconto County Board on Thursday approved a resolution approving the program, which will be subsidized in part by $27,200 in state grants.

The two counties will each contribute $15,000 toward the Clean Sweep, which hasn’t been staged locally since 2011.

“Some counties do it annually,” said Pat Virtues, Oconto County planning and solid waste administrator. “We try to do it about every five years; we’re a little bit off that path.”

Virtues said the counties will offer three collection sites each over a two-day period.

“Typically we will be at the Suring highway shop and at the Oconto MRF (materials recycling facility), and then we designate another site in the county,” he said. “Last time it was in Morgan, we may do Little Suamico, or the previous event we were up in Mountain. We haven’t decided where that best location is yet.”

An ad hoc committee from the two counties will coordinate the event.

As more counties have staged Clean Sweep programs, the available state dollars are going down. The 2011 event received a $39,000 grant, down from $54,000 in 2006.

Virtues said there is some concern whether the funds will go far enough. In a worst-case scenario, the collection would have to be shut down early.

Agricultural and household hazardous waste includes bleaches, oil-based paints (not latex, which is not considered hazardous waste), cleaners and pesticides, he said.

“The hope is to get these materials out of the waste stream, instead of them going to the landfill,” Virtues said. “Mar-Oco (the Marinette-Oconto county landfill) has to treat their leachate, and if it’s got some hot stuff in it because people are just disposing of household hazardous waste; that’s the reason we want to keep them out of the landfills and ditches.”

While he joined in a unanimous vote to approve the Clean Sweep, Supervisor Gary Frank cautioned that the Oconto County Board passed resolutions using $51,200 of its $250,000 contingency budget during its January meeting.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m against this idea, but I’m a little concerned here,” Frank said. “We have to be conscious of the fact we can’t be doing this every month.”