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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a 31-year-old married (with children) woman. I have an embarrassing secret.

When I was 20, I was arrested on a felony charge -- transportation of pot into a prison. The charge was dropped to a misdemeanor, and I was given a one-year probation since I had never been in trouble before as an adult. I haven't been in any trouble since then.

I have noticed that on job applications certain questions are asked about "any arrests." I don't want to lie on a job application and risk being caught and later being fired -- or even being sent to jail because of lying on the application. So, my question is this: Since my arrest was so long ago, is there a way for me to have it sealed so that I can put that part of my life behind me and not worry about it following me for the rest of my life?

Please don't print my name or address. -- GOING STRAIGHT

DEAR GOING STRAIGHT: In some states, if the offender was under 21 years of age when the crime was committed and has subsequently proved to be of good character, the record can be expunged (destroyed). Consult a lawyer. It may cost a few hundred dollars, but the peace of mind would be well worth the price.

DEAR ABBY: In a recent letter from "Heartbroken in Lakewood, N.J.," the writer was distressed over the death of her pet from ingesting antifreeze left on the driveway, and cautioned your readers to hose down their driveways so that their pets are not poisoned.

Abby, unintentional acts of pollution are not only dangerous to residents and their pets, but have similar impacts on the fish and wildlife who are on the receiving end of our storm (drain) water. Most liquid substances washed into storm drains get dumped, untreated, into our rivers and lakes -- where one pint of oil will produce a one-acre oil slick.

The Congress and states are attempting to clean up storm drainage as part of the Clean Water Act. Disposing of oil, antifreeze, paint or paint thinner, household cleansers and other substances by dumping them into gutters and storm drains not only damages the environment but is also a crime.

So, Abby, urge your readers to call their local public works department and find out where to dump used oil and how to properly dispose of other toxic liquids. Remember, for most of us, the water you wash away could be someone else's water supply! Please don't put anything down a gutter or storm drain that you wouldn't want to drink or swim in. -- BERT McCOLLAM, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS, SACRAMENTO, CALIF.

DEAR MR. McCOLLAM: Consider it done! Read on:

DEAR ABBY: In reference to Fluffy, the sweet little dog who lapped up the antifreeze her owner left in the driveway, it isn't clear whether the Sunday mechanic collected most of the antifreeze and spilled a little, or just drained it on the driveway.

Abby, if the antifreeze killed Fluffy, just imagine what it would do to the environment if it were hosed off the driveway and into the ecosystem.

Please, tell your readers that ALL antifreeze (as well as oils) should be collected and disposed of properly. Shops that change oil must, by law, accept used oil. -- J.H.K., HEMPSTEAD, N.Y.

"How to Be Popular" is an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person. To order, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)

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