Opinion

No compelling reason to move transfer station | Editorial

We commend the county Solid Waste Advisory Committee for its work in studying the options for a solid waste transfer station site on San Juan Island.

However, in its recommendation, the committee failed to provide compelling reasons why the Beaverton Valley Road site is more suitable for a solid waste transfer station. At this point, The Journal is compelled to stick to its earlier editorial arguments that the solid waste transfer station should stay on Sutton Road.

No. 1: Traffic and safety. Guard Street, which leads to Beaverton Valley Road, is a recently improved arterial street designed to handle heavy traffic. But it is also a street that leads to homes and neighborhoods, an island library, inns, and other uses that attract bicyclists and pedestrians. Development on the street has grown to accommodate those kinds of uses; the town put in sidewalks last year to accommodate the needs of pedestrians in that area, particularly around the library.

The traffic that currently takes Roche Harbor Road to Sutton Road — an area long accustomed to such use — is not suitable for Guard Street/Beaverton Valley Road. It’s significant that committee member Calvin Den Hartog of San Juan Sanitation believes the solid waste transfer station should stay on Sutton Road.

No. 2: Cost. We believe the cost of building a new waste transfer station at Beaverton Valley Road could exceed the cost of improving the current site.

The county wanted to build a re-use facility, called Trash to Treasures, on property it acquired next to the Sutton Road site, but didn’t because it lost grant funding when it was challenged on a zoning issue. If the county could build Trash to Treasures on the

site then, we can’t see why it is so unsuitable now. We doubt that had Trash to Treasures been developed, the county would be looking for a new site.

The town will begin construction this year on its public works yard on Harbor Street — which, incidentally, it purchased when the county said it would buy the Sutton Road site from the town about four years ago. That will allow the town to move its public works from the Sutton Road site, freeing up more space for the county to improve the site.

According to a summary of potential costs, there’s not much difference between developing the Beaverton Valley Road and improving the Sutton Road site. One committee member, Jack Yelverton, believes the cost of developing the Beaverton Valley Road site will far exceed the cost of improving the Sutton Road site.

The county has long argued that improving the Sutton Road site is cost-prohibitive, but then has spent millions on land acquisition – money it could have used to improve the Sutton Road site.

No. 3: Environment. Granted, a new waste transfer station won’t be a landfill. But it will be a site where commercial and residential garbage, hazardous wastes, recyclables, and waste oil will be moved, stored and transferred. So, it can be expected that developing a new waste transfer station will mean environmental degradation to another area.

The Sutton Road site has a history of use as a landfill, ashfill and waste transfer station. Systems are in place to monitor the environmental impacts of those uses, and those systems must be maintained by the town even if the town sells the property.

If the county develops a new solid waste transfer station, the town could contract with the county and take its solid waste to the new site, or it could operate its own solid waste transfer station on Sutton Road. Then, the island would have two solid waste transfer stations, an unnecessary burden on our environment.

For these reasons, we see no compelling reason to move the solid waste transfer station. Keep it where it is and improve the site.

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