Lithium batteries ignite small fires inside Linn County landfill

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LINN COUNTY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- In just six weeks, lithium batteries have started small fires inside the Linn County Solid Waste Agency landfill. When compactors run over lithium batteries used to power items like hearing aids and watches, the batteries can crack open, react with the air and ignite.

The items responsible for recent fires include a discarded battery powered drone drone, a computer, and a single lithium battery.

“Landfills and fires are something you don't want to associate with each other,” said Joe Horaney, communications director for the Linn County Solid Waste Agency. “The fact this has happened three times shows they're in the garbage stream and we want to keep them out of there."

Horaney said the batteries can also start fires inside homes.

“You put this in your garbage at home and you throw something heavy on there and it could crack open,” Horaney said. “Instead of it happening at the landfill it could happen in your home, your garage, and that could lead to a house fire."

The Waste Agency offers free lithium battery recycling at both its County Home Road and A Street SW locations.

Horaney said it is safe to throw away alkaline materials like common AA and AAA batteries.