Clallam commissioners debate new solid waste plan; will wait for cities to review

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners Monday took aim at a draft solid waste management plan that they said maintains an inefficient system.

All three board members voiced concern over the comprehensive solid waste management plan during an hourlong briefing led by Waste Reduction Coordinator Meggan Uecker.

Commissioners also said they would consider the county-wide plan after it goes to Port Angeles, Sequim and Forks city councils later this month.

The 228-page document contains a recommendation to form a county-wide taxing district to cover the cost of solid waste management.

“I’m not going to vote for that, as one commissioner, until we get serious about recycling,” Commissioner Mike Doherty said.

The draft also says the county should “further investigate the impact of instituting universal collection service across the county.”

“That, again, is trying to bring in a wider swath of what you collect,” Uecker said in the continuation of a board discussion that began June 2.

Most waste generated in Clallam County is taken to the city-owned Port Angeles Regional Transfer Station at 3501 W. 18th St.

At $170 per ton, the facility is more expensive than most transfer stations around the state.

Meanwhile, a portion of the former landfill is in danger of slipping into the Strait of Juan de Fuca from the edge of a 135-foot failing bluff.

The Port Angeles City Council last week approved garbage rate increases on city constituents to repay about $16.19 million in bonds for the bluff stabilization project.

The solid waste plan will be presented to the Port Angeles City Council on June 17.

“I think in short run from a comity standpoint, we should probably go last,” said Commissioner Jim McEntire.

“I think from the commission’s standpoint, just my feeling is we probably ought to wait until we hear from the councils as they take action to adopt, or sign on or whatever they’re going to do.”

Commissioner Mike Chapman said adopting the draft would maintain the status quo.

“What happens if we don’t adopt it?” Chapman asked Uecker.

“I’m not sure I’m ready to move forward. It’d be like flow control. We can talk about it.”

Uecker said the county would be ineligible for certain grants if it doesn’t update its solid waste plan.

State law requires that such plans be updated every five years, and the current plan was adopted in 2007, Uecker said.

City officials this year proposed a countywide flow control ordinance that would have required that non-recyclable waste be taken to the transfer station.

It would have lowered the interest rate on the bonds for bluff stabilization, saving as much as $2 million in interest.

Commissioners did not vote on the proposal after a lengthy discussions in April.

Chapman at the time said a majority of the board considered the issue dead.

Bob Martin, county public works administrator, described a “mess brewing” in solid waste from rising tipping fees.

“That’s going to encourage the absolutely wrong behavior in terms of where people take their waste and what they do with it,” Martin said.

Martin cautioned that mandated garbage collection, flow control and new taxes are “not very popular.”

“I don’t see any really attractive solutions to the problem,” Martin said.

“Somebody is going to have to step up at some point and make some real tough decisions, or the solid waste system that we have is going to have some serious, serious problems.”

McEntire encouraged county officials to work with the three cities to lower the costs of solid waste.

“I don’t want to encourage behavior that stimulates a rise in solid waste collection fees,” he added.

Doherty called for a “serious look” at new strategies for the waste stream.

Materials are being trucked on and off the “island” of the North Olympic Peninsula at a high costs in transportation and greenhouse gases, he said.

Valuable cedar from the former 3 Crabs Restaurant, for example, was carted to Pierce County after the building was demolished last fall, Doherty said.

“We pay to crunch it all up, we pay to transport it, then all the greenhouse gas, all this stuff, congestion on the highway,” Doherty said.

“It’s just waste in the system and we don’t take time to seriously look at it.”

Doherty has long-championed the use of recycled asphalt shingles in local infrastructure like the Olympic Discovery Trail.

Uecker said less waste is being generated nationally because of the recession.

“But that does impact the revenue of the system since it’s also funded through tipping fees,” she said.

Nearly 60,000 tons of waste was generated in Clallam County in 2008, compared to 40,000 tons in 2012.

“Our recycling did end up going up a little bit, which is good for our goals and the overall goals of the state,” Uecker said.

“Of course, the landfill bluff stabilization project is a big cost to the system at this time.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 09. 2014 7:02PM
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