John G. McGrath — The Hale Center for Journalism
Robert Fort is the senior environmental officer at the Kansas City Regional Household Hazardous Waste facility. The Environmental Campus is located at 4707 Deramus Ave., just south of the Chouteau Bridge.
Fort and his team of city workers dispose of both household chemicals and hazardous materials.
Fort said he loves his job and is proud of what he and his team do to help Kansas City residents and the environment.
What was one of the stranger things you’ve come across in your years working at the Household Hazardous Waste facility?
“Probably one of the weirder ones was having some ethyl ether come in that had peroxide formed around the lids of the cans of ether. This is something that is very shock-sensitive and basically turns into an explosive…. we had to deactivate six pint cans of ethyl ether. It was kind of hairy. It will rattle your nerves when you’re doing it because one mistake, and if one of the small six ounce can explodes, we would have gone to the hospital — bare minimum. It’s a very potent chemical reaction when it explodes.”
What about your job do you love?
“I think it’s just the fact that after the day is done, you’ve helped keep the water cleaner, the illegal dumps are less, and you’re disposing and recycling of a large amount of waste that would normally go into a landfill.”
Why is it important for people to recycle at your facility?
“It’s important for people to bring stuff to us so it doesn’t end up in landfills or dumped on the side of the road. So it doesn’t end up hurting our children or our children’s children because we are basically poisoning our water, destroying our forests and everything that surrounds us that helps bring us life.”
Is there anything you want to add that I didn’t ask you?
“… it’s all about teaching. We teach the public what to do and let them know they have a place to get rid of these things because a lot of people don’t know what to do with this stuff.”