Though Solid Waste Authority commissioners agreed an ordinance with “elevated penalties” was needed to curtail illegal trespassing and dumping at the Crescent City Landfill, they balked at the idea of requiring battery retailers to participate in a recycling program.

Instead, the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority board on Tuesday asked staff to send a letter to local retailers urging them to participate in a battery recycling program voluntarily.

“If you come back to us in three months and we’re at 19 out of 23 voluntary participation, with a little bit of encouragement, might save us some work from an ordinance standpoint,” said Crescent City Mayor Blake Inscore. “Or if all of them tell us to go pound sand then maybe we’ve understood they don’t have any intentions of trying to be responsible for the product they sell.”

Solid Waste Authority staff proposed partnering with Call2Recycle, an industry-funded group that recycles rechargeable batteries and cell phones. According to DNSWMA Director Tedd Ward, customers would bring household batteries taped on one end for retailers to drop into a box. When the box reaches its limit, typically 20 pounds, the retailer sends it off for recycling and Call2Recycle mails back another empty box to the retailer.

There is no cost to the retailer to participate in the program, according to Ward.

Twelve businesses in Del Norte County both sell and recycle batteries, according to Ward. Battery recycling is also available at the Del Norte County Transfer Station.

It has been illegal to dispose of household batteries in the trash since 2006, according to the Solid Waste Authority’s staff report. Cell phone retailers have also been required to have a receptacle for recycling old phones and rechargeable batteries since 2006. However most communities in the state don’t have a program for recycling single-use batteries, though they are banned from disposal because they are hazardous, according to the staff report.

According to Ward, several statewide recycling programs, such as the mattress recycling program started as ordinances developed by local jurisdictions. He noted that the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority recently approved a bill requiring the proper disposal of sharps and pharmaceutical products in response to the opioid epidemic, though many in the pharmaceutical industry weren’t supportive of such a mandate.

Lithium ion batteries, Ward said, are a hazardous product and have been associated with fires that have damaged recycling centers and solid waste facilities. Though a battery-caused fire hasn’t occurred at Del Norte County solid waste facilities, Ward said he has heard from local pawn shops about computers being deformed because their lithium ion battery had melted.

“By putting additional requirements on the people who sell (batteries) we highlight those hazards and hopefully have a safer overall program,” he said.

It was Crescent City Councilor Jason Greenough who initially brought up the reluctance of mandating local businesses take part in a battery recycling program.

“If we already have a voluntary program, I don’t see why we actually have to have an ordinance in place,” he said.

Commissioner Eli Naffah noted some of the retailers not participating in a battery recycling program include Walmart, Verizon, Rite Aid and CVS and Tractor Supply Company.

Inscore pointed out that some of those retailers probably account for most of the batteries that are sold in the county.

“Only half of them are doing it,” Inscore said.

Ward noted that if they’re given a choice to participate, some businesses decline.

As for concerns about illegal dumping, vehicular trespass and property damage at the Crescent City landfill, the Solid Waste Management Authority board gave Ward the go-ahead to begin drafting an ordinance that introduces penalties to deter that activity. The proposed ordinance would have to be approved by the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors and the Crescent City Council before it comes before the Solid Waste Management Authority board, according to Ward.

Ward reported that vehicles and people have damaged fences, gates, the landfill mound and drainage structures at the property. A residential well has also been drilled on landfill property. According to Ward, the State Water Quality Control Board requires the Solid Waste Management Authority to test residential wells in the area.

“The residential water well that is closest to the landfill is on the landfill,” Ward said. “We in the coming week will send a letter to the property owner making it clear that we intend to sample that well when and how we want to sample that well.”

Ward noted that these concerns came up in a meeting between Solid Waste Authority staff, Del Norte County Code Enforcement Officer Dominic Mello, Pacific Power representatives and State Parks representatives. Ward said that state parks representatives stated that if the authority drafted an illegal dumping and no trespassing ordinance, they would be able to enforce it.

The Solid Waste Management Authority would also erect signs stating that trespassing and dumping are prohibited and would monitor the area via surveillance camera, Ward said.

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