Motor Fluids Recycling
Program Continues to Gain Momentum
Back in January 1998, the Victoria
County Commissioners Court entertained
a request from three sixth-graders who wanted to begin a motor fluids recycling
The court gave its approval, and
away they went.
In some instances, that would be
the end of the story. But in this South Texas
county, it was only the beginning the launch of a program that would expand
into neighboring counties and earn the youngsters an award of presidential proportions.
It all began when a little girl
saw her daddy pour used motor oil on the weeds alongside his barn, and she didnt
A parent challenged the young girl
and her friends to figure out a way to solve the problem. Barbara Brown, Lacy
Jones and Kate Klinkerman soon learned that one gallon of used fluid contaminates
more than one acre of groundwater. They began researching how to recycle oil,
toured a recycling facility, and enlisted the help of a local recycler, who
helped the trio come up with a recycling plan.
The threesome sought direction from the Texas Natural
Resource Conservation Commission, now the Texas Commission on Environmental
Quality. The state agency sent them to their local government officials. Being
4-H participants, the girls knew exactly where to go: commissioners court.
Brown, Jones and Klinkerman gave an illustrated
presentation to the commissioners court, seeking approval to begin Dont Be
Crude, a program that would place motor fluid recycling sites in rural Victoria County.
Five corporate sponsors funded the teams purchase
of federally approved recycling units. Victoria County now houses seven such do-it-yourself (DIY) units.
The unit actually is a big tank that sets inside
a secondary tank. Users simply open the lid and dispose of oil or hydraulic
fluid, said Joni Brown, executive director of Dont Be Crude and mother of Barbara
Brown. Any spilled fluid flows into the secondary tank. Oil filters are placed
in an accompanying container, and a log is located at the site so that users
can record their activity.
Dont Be Crude, with funding provided by the
Golden Crescent Regional Planning Commission (GCRPC), expanded into six additional
counties and now is responsible for the collection of 56,000 gallons of used
motor fluid per year from 21 units in the seven-county GCRPC area. U.S. Filter
has partnered with Dont Be Crude to empty the barrels and retrieve the oil
filters, free of charge.
Used motor oil collected in the Dont Be Crude program
is recycled into roadbed material for use on Texas highways, and used oil filters
are recycled into t-posts used in fencing.
In the seven years since its inception, the
three girls, now college students, have traveled across the county giving presentations,
appearing on CNN and other national television and radio networks, Brown said.
The Don’t Be Crude team has received several
awards including the 2000 Brower Youth Award, the 2001 Environmental Protection
Agency Presidential Environmental Youth Award, the 2001 Texas Environmental
Excellence Youth Award, and the 2001 Prudential Spirit of Community Award. They
also won first place for Texas State 4-H Roundup
2001 Method Demonstration.
While Brown credits the youngsters with the
immense success of Dont Be Crude, she said the program would not have taken
off without the Victoria County commissioners
and their initial support, and the commissioners in the other six counties that
now house units.
Our county commissioners are the reason this
works, Brown said. The 21 units located in the GCRPC area all are under the
management of county commissioners.
Victoria County Commissioner Wayne Dierlam
has four units in his precinct, including one at his precinct barn.
Its so great to see something like this happen
in our own backyard, he said.
Dierlam said initial concerns that the sites
might be subject to vandalism or turn into dumping grounds for a variety of
trash have been alleviated. As of yet, the sites remain well kept and productive,
with the county mowing the areas and keeping them free of weeds.
Jackson County Commissioner Larry Deyton said
he remembers the young girls coming to court seeking permission to place a unit
in Jackson County.
When the court agreed to implement the program
back in September 2002, Deyton placed flyers at local stores to inform the public
of the units location, behind the fire station in Lolita.
It has worked out great, Deyton said. Like
Dierlam, Deyton said he is pleased to report that so far the site has not been
vandalized or used as a dumping ground.
Lavaca County Commissioner Daniel Peters said
use of his unit has progressed regularly since its installation, and now it
has become a common thing, especially for truckers who live in the area.
The program has been very effective in Calhoun County, said Commissioner Roger Galvan, with users keeping
the area well maintained and in good order.
DeWitt County Commissioner Gilbert Pargmann
has stationed his site inside his precinct gate, making it available during
regular opening hours so the site can be monitored.
So far, people have been very careful and
leave everything neat, Pargmann said. We have not had a single complaint about
the hours we operate.
While Dont Be Crudes original inventors are
away at school, the program continues to operate. Dont Be Crude is now a 501(c)3
with an active board of directors. The board currently is working on Texas Recycles
Day activities and has developed a curriculum now under consideration by Texas 4-H faculty.
Both Brown and Dierlam, who were around at
the programs inception, continue to be amazed at how far Dont Be Crude has
The best thing is, its going national, Dierlam
said, and it started right here in our little community.
And to think, Brown said, it all began when
three little girls placed a recycling unit at a local feed store out in the
middle of nowhere. By Julie AndersonJulie Anderson