The road through Veterans Park Saturday morning looked like Interstate 95 during rush hour, with a bumper-to-bumper line of cars inching along toward their destination: the annual town-sponsored collection of household hazardous waste.
The five-hour collection program provided Fairfielders with a chance to safely dispose of unsafe, possibly dangerous items that have been collecting unused in garages, garden sheds, basements and crawl spaces. The collection itself was managed by Clean Harbors Environmental Services of Braintree, Mass., in collaboration with municipal departments.
"The town has set up an elaborate drop-off system to be responsive and efficient in terms of processing," said police Lt. Jim Perez. "It's a very convenient program wherein people can safely dispose of hazardous waste from their home. Mike Zembruski (the town director of solid waste and recycling) holds this once a year."
Perez noted that "the interesting part about this is what comes here sometimes. In the past, we've seen cyanide and dangerous acids, which has prompted response from the State Police bomb squad and FBI because of the contents. We understand from the police side that these things can be hazardous, so we have a team of chemists who can properly identify, separate and dispose of chemicals in a safe manner."
Perez said four advance spotters helped the process along. They checked the waste contents before the vehicles reach the unloading zone for everyone's safety and efficient processing.
By 11:30 a.m. at least a couple hundred cars had unloaded materials, according to Perez.
"This is a good event," he said. "People take it seriously. They don't want to be surrounded by these chemicals."
As far as disposal, Zembruski said, "Clean Harbors takes waste to their facilities, put the chemically compatible items with each other or blend some petroleum products together as a fuel they can recycle and resell."
Zembruski said Fairfield is also a member community of HazWaste Central in New Haven. "It was once the only facility in the region that had a permanent haz-waste collection," he said. "On every Saturday except certain holidays -- the second week of May to the last Saturday of October -- that facility is open for all residents of participating towns."
Zembruski added, "Besides the safety factor of removing unwanted hazardous waste from homes, there is an added benefit during hurricane seasons. If these items are removed from homes in low-lying areas, these hazards won't be going into the water system."