Hazardous waste in garbage sends 4 workers to hospital

An official said the incident underscores why hazardous wastes require special handling.

EVERETT — Four county employees were sent to the hospital for medical evaluations Wednesday morning after a report of a chemical spill at a solid waste transfer station near Paine Field.

The trash dropoff on Airport Road was closed and evacuated. It reopened after 10 a.m.

The workers were transported to the hospital for monitoring. A few patrons who were using the recycling and transfer station were escorted out of the building along with all employees.

A hazardous materials team was brought in for cleanup, Snohomish County officials said.

“It looks like industrial cleaning solvents,” said Matt Zybas, the county’s solid waste director.

Workers had reported a strong unusual odor around 8 a.m. About five gallons of heavy duty degreaser that a customer brought in were found in two 2.5-gallon jugs. The Snohomish County Hazardous Materials team was called and secured the containers. One of the jugs had a loose lid, resulting in the spillage.

A hazardous waste contracting firm quickly cleared the spill.

“This is one of the reasons we emphasize that chemical containers are sealed and disposing of hazardous waste properly — not in the garbage,” Zybas said. “Fortunately our emergency management plan was executed successfully to minimize the exposure.”

Zybas said Wednesday’s incident underscores why hazardous wastes require special handling.

They can’t be put in the dumpster, poured down the drain or evaporated into the air. Nor can they be taken to the transfer station, he said.

Every business must comply with regulations, no matter how little hazardous waste it generates.

The requirements for managing hazardous waste are spelled out in the Washington dangerous waste regulations, which are included in Chapters 173 to 303 of the Washington Administrative Code. Those regulations spell out how hazardous waste must be stored, handled, transported and disposed.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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