According to the Environmental Protection Agency, each person in the United States produces an average of four pounds of household hazardous waste each year for a total of about 530,000 tons per year.

If not properly disposed of, this waste can cause house fires, water contamination and serious health concerns.

The Marion County Recycling and Litter Control and Project A.L.E.R.T, in partnership with West Virginia University and NASA IV & V Facility- Fairmont, will host “Marion County, West Virginia, Earth, and Beyond” on July 29 from 2-4 p.m. at the Robert H. Mollohan Research Center Exhibition Hall, 1000 Galliher Drive, in Fairmont.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will provide training on how to properly dispose of hazardous materials such as medicine, lead-based paint, batteries and bleaches.

Speakers include:

  • Ronald L. Mersky, associate professor at Widener University, and editor of the Journal of Solid Waste, Technology, & Management. Mersky specializes in environmental engineering, water resources, resources analysis, and waste management. He will talk about the global state of solid waste.
  • Carol Throckmorton from the West Virginia Solid Waste Management Board. She will talk about recycling and solid waste management in West Virginia.
  • Paul Hayes from the Recycling Coalition of West Virginia. He will talk about the curriculum, created with the West Virginia Department of Education.
  • Terry Polen, ombudsman for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. He will talk about solid waste as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Career.
  • Bobbi Benson, executive director of Marion County Solid Waste Authority. She will talk about the work Marion County and Taylor County solid waste authority agencies have done through Project A.L.E.R.T (Assistance Lowering Environmental Rural Toxins). The effort was created to help residents properly dispose of hazardous materials.

Free medication disposal kits, proper disposal handbooks, and personal cigarette butt holders will be distributed while supplies last.

“It’s a difficult topic. People used to be taught to do certain things—it was OK to flush medicine down the toilet, but that’s changed a lot,” said Barbara MacLennan, geography graduate teaching assistant at WVU and certified Solid Waste Association of North America recycling systems professional.

“Some of that is because the materials have changed a lot. We tell people that it’s not always what you were doing was wrong. At the time it was right, but now things have changed.”

Dumping hazardous materials in a toilet poses serious health consequences, MacLennan said.

“A lot of times you’re killing off the good bacteria that’s in your septic, or the water treatment. That affects its ability to do its job, and can cause gases. It can also get into the water supply,” she said.

Widener University, the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation, The Journal of Solid Waste Technology and Management, the Marion County Solid Waste Authority and Fairmont State University are also sponsoring the course.

The course is part of the Solid Waste, Sustainability, and STEM workshop on July 29-30, from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m., in collaboration with the NASA IV and V facility in Fairmont, West Virginia.

Project A.L.E.R.T is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create a network for the proper disposal of medications and other common household items, and to keep potentially hazardous materials out of waterways and groundwater.

For more information, contact Barbara MacLennan at



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