Two solid waste transfer station sites nixed by SWAC; meeting Monday at 11:45 a.m.

One is too remote. The other is not for sale.

And while the factors may differ, the Solid Waste Advisory Committee last week trimmed down from five to three the number of sites it will consider as the home of a new transfer station on San Juan Island.

The committee is expected to rank the candidate sites, pick its preference and provide a recommendation to the County Council by Dec. 15.

At its Oct. 20 meeting, the committee eliminated from consideration a parcel on Egg Lake Road, totaling roughly 40 acres, and a 5-acre lot at the intersection of Cattle Point and Golf Course roads. The decision proved relatively easy to make for a variety of reasons, according to Orcas Island's George Post, chairman of the solid-waste advisory panel.

For starters, Post said, the committee agreed the lot on Cattle Point Road is too small to house a transfer station intended to handle the influx of trash, recycling and hazardous waste over the next 20 years, if not longer. That its owner has no intention of selling makes it even less viable as an option, he added.

"The only way to get it would be by eminent domain and since it's so small to begin with, it made sense to everyone to let it go," Post said. "Egg Lake would be too far away from the normal flow of traffic, especially for people at the south end of the island. It just seemed to most people that it's too far away."

Though two have been scratched off the list, the pros and cons of the other three are still under debate. The committee will continue with its deliberations on Monday, beginning at 11:45 a.m. at the San Juan Island Fire Department headquarters on Mullis Street.

Still on the table are 33 acres on Sutton Road, which include the existing transfer station, an 8-acre parcel on Daniel Lane, and 27 acres that straddle Beaverton Valley and Lampard roads, purchased three years ago by Public Works for $1.8 million.

Central to the debate among SWAC members is a study, conducted by a county-hired consultant group, comparing environmental impacts at each of the five sites and upon surrounding neighborhoods. So far, Post said, neither construction costs, property acquisition or a preference of Public Works are driving the discussion.

Steve Alexander, manager of Public Works' solid-waste division, said the department has been monitoring SWAC discussions from the sidelines and providing whatever information the advisory panel might request. Its intention is not to pre-empt the process by advocating for one site over another and to fold its recommendation into a package that, coupled with a decision by SWAC, will be presented in tandem to the council in mid-December.

"We'll be engaging them more as they make progress but we're only going to move as fast as SWAC feels comfortable with," he said. "We're not going to arrive at the council on our own."

Still, Alexander noted timing could prove critical for continuation of the solid-waste operation on Sutton Road. A state-issued waiver which allows the operation to continue despite the lack of a covered tipping floor, where trash is dumped, expires in mid-March.

That waiver, according to recent warnings by the state Department of Ecology, will not be renewed and repairs would be required unless the council selects a site and makes a financial commitment toward building a new facility by early next year.

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