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Slick solution for oil disposal

Jenifer Ragland

It’s probably safe to say that no one thinks dumping motor oil into the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe is a good idea.

However, lack of knowledge about oil recycling may be causing that to happen, as people discard used oil from cars and boats into trash cans and storm drains.

But a joint oil recycling program by the city of South Lake Tahoe and El Dorado County is designed to address the situation. Funded by a $262,377 grant from the California Integrated Waste Management Board, the two-year program is intended to educate the public about what to do with used oil and provide local businesses with the resources for recycling it.

Jim Greco, a solid waste management consultant hired by the city and county, gave City Council members an update on the program at last week’s meeting. He is hoping to get as much done as possible before the grant runs out next June.

“We all grow up and are used to practices that are second nature to us and our environment, so we do things the way we think they’ve always been done,” he said. “Individuals who change their own oil may put it in the garbage, which contaminates landfills and recyclables, or dump it down the storm drains, which eventually goes into the lake.”

That is why a major aspect of the oil recycling program is public education about the issues, he said.

“What we are trying to do is change attitudes and find a better way of handling these products that will enhance the clarity of the lake and the purity of the lake and the area,” Greco said.

Recycled oil is “re-refined” – a process that removes dirt and contaminants – and put back into commerce and industry. There are a handful of companies that manufacture the recycled motor oil to be used again in automobiles. The recycled lubricant can also be used in crude diesel fuel, he said.

Sue Schlerf, assistant city manager, said the grant money provides business owners with a special oil collection tank and the state pays businesses 16 cents per gallon of oil recycled.

As an incentive to the public to recycle used oil, any participating business will pay the same 16-cent rate.

“It’s really a deal for the businesses, because otherwise they would have to pay someone to take the used oil away,” Schlerf said.

The state provides participating businesses with a list of companies that will haul the used oil out and take it to recycling plants in Reno, Nev. or Patterson, Calif.

On the South Shore, six businesses are taking part in the program. South Tahoe Refuse, Grand Auto Supply and Lake Valley Fire Protection District were the first three; Tahoe Quick Lube, Emerald Bay Chevron and Tahoe Keys Marina have become certified within the last few weeks.

At last Tuesday’s meeting, Councilwoman Margo Osti pointed out that the current participants are clustered toward the western end of town. She said she would like to see more service stations in the Stateline area offer oil recycling to reduce the “hassle” for residents in that area.

Greco said there is still room in the grant funds for more businesses to participate.

While oil recycling is a growing trend across the state, Greco said the center at the Tahoe Keys Marina is among the first marinas to offer the service.

“Here, we are trying to focus on the lake and the marinas,” he said. “We may be on the cutting edge as far as what Tahoe Keys is doing. We have a very attractive marina interested in providing the service to boat and car owners.”

Greco said oil from any type of boat engine – including two-strokes – can be mixed with oil from automobiles for recycling.

For more information on the program, call 1-888-L-Dorado.


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