By Harry Berry
Society’s current quest to protect and improve our environment spans five decades with many of our laws and regulations dating back to the ’60s and ’70s, including the National Environmental Protection Act, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act.
I first became actively involved in environmental protection in the late ’80s and early ’90s while serving as the Environmental Engineer for the Defense Nuclear Agency.
Being deeply involved with environmental regulatory compliance, remediation and restoration at many sites across America and in the Pacific provided me a deep appreciation for the need and complexity of preventing environmental degradation as well as cleaning up damage from misguided past practices.
During the past 20 years, many across our nation have grown to appreciate the importance of preventing environmental degradation as a means of avoiding costly cleanups and unnecessary destruction of our natural resources.
Here at home we are proud to say that during this current decade Hardin County government has embarked on many actions and programs aimed at protecting our environment and making our county a little “greener.” The following are a few of the initiatives under way:
n In 2001 universal trash collection was instituted to assist in eliminating the illegal dumping practices ongoing throughout the county. Utilizing state grant funds combined with county funding, the county has also cleaned 84 illegal roadside dumps during the last seven years at a cost of almost $200,000. Additionally the county’s solid waste director and county jailer work closely together to pick up roadside litter throughout our county year-round. More than $628,000 in funding has been utilized during the last six years in support of this effort.
- In 2005 Hardin County government partnered with Nolin RECC and East Kentucky Power (EKP) to capture and utilize the greenhouse gas methane that is created at the county’s landfill to power three generators operated by EKP to provide electricity in amounts equivalent to supplying 3,000 homes daily. In addition to the obvious environmental advantages, it is estimated this arrangement will net county government approximately $2 million over the next 20 years.
- Early in the 2006 county election cycle Steve Walton, Radcliff businessman and former candidate for county commissioner, researched and promoted the development of a county-wide recycle program in partnership with Fort Knox. Mr. Walton and I met with the manager of the Fort Knox Recycling Center in the summer of 2006 to tour its recycle facilities and discuss the potential of working together on recycling for Hardin County. Subsequently County Solid Waste Director Bob Hall, in partnership with Fort Knox, finalized the county’s current recycling initiative and in 2007, through 100 percent county funding, two drop off points for recyclables were established in Vine Grove and Elizabethtown. Early this month we were pleased to learn the state is awarding a grant to establish three additional drop off sites throughout the county later this year.
- The county also recently received a grant to initiate a household hazardous waste program later this year. Through partnerships with local industries, this project will provide residents the opportunity to properly dispose of many hazardous wastes such as mercury, pesticides, paint thinners, antifreeze and household cleaning chemicals.
- Fallen animals left to decay in the environment can adversely impact our county’s safe drinking water supply. In 2004 county government started providing assistance to properly dispose of these fallen animals. Today the county’s dead animal removal program provides area livestock owners’ removal and disposal services of large animals at no cost to the resident. The program is partially funded through a state grant with the majority of the expense paid by county government.
- In April of this year, Hardin County government partnered with AGC in Elizabethtown, Central Kentucky Pride and the League of Women Voter’s Hardin County Recycling Committee to conduct the first known E-scrap event in our county. Over a two-day period 21,569 pounds of computer and electronic hardware were collected for recycling by the disposal contractor Apex Technology Solutions. This is a significant amount of electronic waste that is not using up valuable disposal space in the county’s contained landfill. We hope to make this an annual event.
- Every three years we combine efforts with state resources to offer a tire amnesty program for the collection of used tires throughout the county. The next effort is scheduled for the spring of 2009.
- Each spring and fall Hardin County government partners with the University of Kentucky’s County Extension Service for a rinse and return program to ensure the proper handling and disposal of pesticide containers used by our local agricultural community.
- Throughout county government facilities we have, when practical, replaced old fixtures with more energy-efficient ones as well as implementing the use of compact fluorescent bulbs where feasible. We also have made efforts to reduce water heater and boiler temperatures to conserve energy. Additionally, we have taken steps to curtail vehicle use and consciously made decisions to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles when making replacements to the fleet. And yes, even the simple acts of turning the lights off when no one is in the room and appropriately changing temperatures when facilities are unoccupied in the evenings and weekends are now common throughout county government.
As you can see, those serving Hardin County government are committed to protecting and preserving the many natural resources our region is blessed with. Each day we strive to be good shepherds of all resources within in our control and will continue to be vigilant in identifying ways to conserve and protect those resources.
Harry L. Berry is Hardin County judge-executive
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