Making mountains out of landfill

Roseville’s Environmental Utilities Department does its part to get expanded polystyrene to those who will re-use it
By: Susan Belknap Press-Tribune Editor
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– Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series highlighting the city of Roseville as it approaches its 100th year as a city. When many people think of big, white mountains thoughts of Tahoe, Aspen and Mammoth come to mind. But the city of Roseville has its own white mountain that is available to residents and businesses year round. It’s called the EPS mountain but instead of using it for skiing, the city’s Environmental Utilities department uses this mountain for recycling. For those unfamiliar with EPS, it is a type of Styrofoam, which is a trademark for expanded polystyrene. The city of Roseville began the mountain of EPS last November as a pilot program for the region, providing EPS recycling bins at several drop-off sites throughout the city. The EPS collected by the city is condensed at the Environmental Utilities office area and then transported to companies that pay for the collected EPS to be recycled and made into items such as baseboards, crown molding, lightweight concrete and packaging. “We’ve collected 20.2 tons of EPS this past year,” said Sean Bigley, administrative analyst for the city. “We do this for diversion,” said Derrick Whitehead, Environmental Utilities director. “Getting it out of the landfill is important.” Residents interested in disposing of EPS can visit centers located at Maidu Park, Washington and All America City boulevards and Mahany Park. “These sites are open 24 hours a day,” Bigley said. Recycling EPS is just part of what keeps the staff of Environmental Utilities occupied. The department is Roseville’s provider of water, wastewater and refuse utility service. Staff members also concentrate on creating programs that promote recycling, water conservation, stormwater management and proper disposal of household hazardous waste. With water conservation on the minds of many the last few years, Whitehead said the city is concerned about being able to store large amounts of water. One such way to store water is through a system called ASR, or Aquifer Storage and Recovery, a process Whitehead said is common in Southern California. Whitehead said the city has been working on an ASR project for last five years. It involves a process where water is injected into a groundwater aquifer via a water well, then recovered through pumping water out of the for future use. The goal of the ASR program is to be able to rely on groundwater supplies when surface water supplies are not available. Whitehead said Roseville is currently under a stage 1 drought alert where city residents are being asked to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 10 percent. “We’ve seen a substantive difference in water usage from the months of May, June and July of this year,” Whitehead said. As a means to educate the public about the work of the Environmental Utilities department, the Utility Exploration Center, or UEC as it is commonly referred to, opened in January, 2008. “This is a great venue to educate the public,” Bigley said. Located in 225-acre Mahany Park on the same grounds as the Roseville Sports Center, the Martha Riley Community Library and the Roseville Television Studio, the UEC features a 3,200-square-foot exhibit gallery, technology lab, home improvement workshops and all types of ongoing programs and events. Bob Garrison is the manager of the center. He said the No. 1 message he hopes visitors learn from a trip to the UEC is the importance of reducing the effect people have on the earth. Garrison said this is accomplished by a variety of exhibits and interactive tours. “We are family based,” Garrison said. “We’ve had more than 400,000 people come through our doors since our opening at the beginning of the year. That’s about 170 people each day.” The UEC is free to the public and open Tuesday through Saturday. This is a small sample of some of the services and programs the Environmental Utilities department offers. Their office is located at 2005 Hilltop Circle in the Roseville Corporation Yard. For more information call 774-5750 or visit