By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Hamilton County residents will get a chance this month to tell officials what sorts of environmental services they want during the next five years, from yard waste collection to tire cleanups to computer recycling.
Every five years, the county's Department of Environmental Services must update the master plan it files with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. The state agency requires that each county guarantee that 25 percent of all residential and commercial waste, along with 66 percent of industrial waste, will be recycled instead of deposited in a landfill.
The county spends about $2.5 million per year on environmental programs, through its Solid Waste Management District. The money comes from a fee placed on every ton of waste that goes into the Rumpke landfill. The fees cost the average Hamilton County resident about $1 per year.
"There are more and more demands being placed on the money every year," said Jeff Aluotto, manager of the Solid Waste Management District. "As we go through this process, we're going to examine each program and there is a chance they could be altered or eliminated. So we need to hear from people."
The Solid Waste Management District meets on the second Thursday every month and will accept public comments at any of those meetings. The next meeting is 2 p.m. May 13 at the county's Environmental Services Building, 250 William Howard Taft Road.
Residents can fill out an online survey at www.hcdoes.org, write a letter, or call 946-7777 to make comments.
Here's how the money was spent last year:
$1 million in community grants to help pay for curbside recycling programs.
$450,000 to pay for four household hazardous waste drop days, when anyone can drop off paints, cleaners, oil, car batteries and other hazardous materials and have them properly disposed of free.
$450,000 to health departments to pay for monitoring landfills.
$250,000 for yard waste recycling.
$350,000 to computer recycling events along with community outreach and assistance programs.
Many of the programs are wildly popular. More than 30,000 people used the yard waste recycling sites last year, and more than 2,500 car loads of household hazards waste were dropped off during the last of four events in 2003. Each of the four events cost about $100,000.
The computer recycling event netted 17 tractor-trailer loads - an estimated 250 tons - of electronics that were recycled rather than buried.
The plan must be written by 2005, but the county wants to begin collecting public opinion on the plan by this fall.
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