This week marks the end of an era in San Juan County. After 24 years of service, both as a contractor and as an employee, Helen Venada will be leaving employment with San Juan County.
As I travel around the islands visiting with local businesses concerning waste and pollution issues, it has always impressed me how many folks appreciate and praise Helen’s commitment to environmental issues, especially her efforts in waste prevention: helping people find creative ways to use and re-use unwanted items, aggressively promoting recycling, and reducing the amount of materials that we send to landfills.
This, along with her work with kids in our schools, is her passion. It was not long after I started calling on local businesses that I was first introduced to Helen’s nickname, ‘Hazardous Helen’. A business owner used the name to express how grateful they were for Helen’s efforts to begin the county program for collection of unwanted hazardous chemicals: The San Juan County Hazardous Waste Round-Up collection events.
Before this event was held, households and businesses really had no way to correctly dispose of these dangerous chemicals. Since the first Round-Up, held on Sept. 9, 1989, approximately 500 tons of hazardous waste has left our island community for proper disposal on the mainland.
This is an incredible statistic and a herculean accomplishment. Our quality of life, and the health of the environment in our island community, is improved as a direct result of Helen’s tireless commitment.
Please join me in expressing thanks to Helen for all the hard work, and wishing her happiness and good fortune in all her future endeavors. And… maybe the best way we can say thanks: try to work a little harder on our own waste prevention efforts – reduce, reuse, recycle.
Brian Rader / San Juan Island
— Editor’s note: Brian Rader is the county’s pollution prevention specialist, a grant-funded position.