By all accounts, last weekend's effort to help residents dispose of hazardous household waste was a big success. People brought in thousands of pounds of electronic waste, leftover paint and solvents, expired medicines, refrigerants and other household chemicals.

But Summit County residents need to be vigilant year round.

Many local homeowners will soon be starting their spring cleaning, landscaping and home improvement projects, all of which entail using products that are potentially harmful to the environment. Herbicides, pesticides and cleaning compounds all contain chemicals that must be carefully disposed of.

It is important to note that the environment is particularly sensitive at precisely the same time that spring cleaning fever strikes - as snowmelt runs off into streams and rivers.

Park City and Summit County residents have a special responsibility because their high-elevation communities line the headwaters of several important rivers. Harmful pollutants carelessly spilled into storm drains or negligently placed with regular trash that is taken to the landfill may not only seep into the local water table but can also travel downstream and degrade neighboring watersheds.

Thanks to Recycle Utah and local elected officials at City Hall and the County Courthouse, local residents know better. There have been numerous public education efforts as well as opportunities to do the right thing at little or no cost - like the free hazardous waste collection effort last weekend.

Commercial entities need to join the effort too - landscaping and cleaning companies should be prepared to offer customers environmentally friendly alternatives as part of their services. Hopefully the community will reward those efforts by patronizing those businesses that make an active choice to reduce their impact on our fragile mountain ecosystem.

Responsible waste disposal should not be a once or twice a year event. It needs to be a habit. So read the labels, choose the least toxic alternatives, use as little as possible and keep in mind that the project isn't done until all the leftovers are properly handled.