GUERNEVILLE (KPIX) – As Guerneville residents work to dig out and clean up from last week’s flood, officials are reminding people of the proper ways to dispose of debris. But for many, the advice is falling on deaf ears.

In the late 1990s, the federal government began paying residents of the town to raise their homes above flood stage and only use the bottom floor as a garage or storage area. The problem is, a lot of materials stored in garages were pretty toxic.

“Gasoline, kerosene, motor oil…those are the worst because they are so polluting to the water and so damaging to wildlife,” said Robin Factor, volunteer coordinator with a group called the Clean River Alliance. Her workers have been searching trash piles and removing hazardous chemicals, toxic materials and e-waste that are not supposed to be mixed with regular household garbage.

“We’re trying to get the word out to businesses and residents to separate your hazardous wastes and your electronics,” said Fred Stemmler, General Manager of Recology of Sonoma Marin. “They have to, by state law, be collected separately.”

There will be a free hazardous waste drop-off Saturday at a transfer station about four miles from downtown. That’s the plan, but there’s just one problem.

“In a situation like we’ve got here now, that’s just not going to happen,” said Bob Legge, with another conservation group called Russian River Keepers. He says residents in Guerneville have been traumatized and it’s unrealistic to expect people who just lost everything to worry about following proper recycling rules.

“It is an inconvenience,” he said, “and it’s hard on people just going through what they went through here to have to jump through more hoops to get rid of it.”

Legge says the county should have had hazardous waste collection available immediately in the neighborhoods and wherever people are dropping off their debris. But that didn’t happen. Instead, containers of chemicals are hiding inside loads heading for the landfill…toxic time bombs waiting to spring a leak and begin leaching into the soil and eventually, the underground water table.

Saturday’s free hazardous materials drop-off event will be at the Guerneville Transfer Station on Pocket Road.

Stemmler says there may also be curbside collections, but those have yet to be announced by the Sonoma County Office of Emergency Services.

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