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Rise in battery fires at Landfill of North Iowa

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MASON CITY, Iowa - You may be looking at upgrading to a new phone and wanting to get rid of your old phone, or needing to swap out a battery. But what do you do with the old battery that has been exahusted?

At CPR Cell Phone Repair, owner Philip Biermann and his technicians have seen batteries burst into flames when working on a variety of electronics. In his business, they call these scary instances 'thermal events.'

"It's usually a blue flame, a foot tall, and it smokes up."

Another common problem - batteries expanding and cracking cell phone casing. This is a clear sign of a potential fire hazard. Fortunately, there is protocol in place if they're facing such incidents.

"We've had it where we've seen it and watch it expand, and immediately know to get it off the desk as fast as we can."

When a battery catches fire or runs out completely, it should not go in the regular trash can. At the Landfill of North Iowa, education coordinator Christa Latch says they've seen a handful of fires caused by discarded lithium-ion batteries when they're run over by a compactor or bulldozer.

"The pressure from the compactor generates a spark and the batteries catch on fire."

Fortunately, these fires have not spread, but there is an environmental risk posed by these batteries.

"If it goes down into the landfill, it could get into our plastic liner that is a line of defense or protection for our groundwater. We don't want to burn a hole through that liner."

The best way to dispose of these lithium-ion batteries, which are found in many everyday items like phones and power tools, is to recycle them. The Landfill accepts batteries, free of charge and with no appointment needed. The Mason City and Clear Lake Fire Departments, as well as Kramer Ace Hardware stores, also accept them.

Annually, the Landfill of North Iowa collects about 7,100 lbs. of batteries for recycling. In addition, they also collect about 180,000 lbs. of electronic waste for recycling.

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