It was a good opportunity to prevent a garage or basement from turning into a toxic waste dump.

The spring edition of the twice-yearly household hazardous waste collection day for residents of Hawkesbury, East Hawkesbury, and Champlain Township took place on Saturday at the wastewater treatment plant in Hawkesbury.

The event takes place on the first Saturday of May and October and allows residents to safely dispose of things that should not be put in regular household garbage or poured down drains.  That includes old paint, oil, gasoline, batteries, and propane tanks.

Pharmaceuticals like expired medication, and old fluorescent light bulbs are also accepted.

A steady stream of cars containing items to be disposed of went through the collection area on Saturday.

“There were line-ups,” said Hawkesbury Councillor Robert Lefebvre, who helps coordinate the event.

He said 500 vehicles usually pass through on household hazardous waste day, but he was already anticipating more because of the good weather on Saturday.

Lefebvre said it costs about $45,000 to hold the collection days, but Stewardship Ontario, the organization that manages the recovery of hazardous materials, covers 30 to 35 per cent of the cost, and is moving towards covering the complete cost.

At each collection day, student and staff volunteers from local high schools don hazmat suits and other protective gear to help take the items from vehicles and place them at various stations.  This time, it was École secondaire catholique régional de Hawkesbury’s turn.  The other schools that assist are Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute and École secondaire publique le Sommet.  Lefebvre said each school is given $1,500 for assisting, and the funds are used for school activities.  The hours go toward the volunteer requirement for students.

Drain-All, an Ottawa-based environmental services company, then takes the hazardous materials away for processing.

Volunteers help collect fluorescent light bulbs for disposal. Photo: James Morgan