Letters to the Editor

New site needed for solid waste transfer station

The presence of the transfer station was not a concern for me until the volume of activity there increased while the forest that buffered the noise quietly died. Now it’s a problem.

Fourteen of my neighbors have property lines bordering the solid waste facility. I live across the street from one of those adjacent homes. When I’m standing in my kitchen at 7:45 in the morning and I hear what sounds like large trucks crashing into brick walls, I know the folks at the dump are up and working.

Recent articles published in The Journal have included misleading comments about the transfer station which I am writing to address. People often assume that it would be cheaper to “leave it where it is,” but would it?

It will cost about $150,000 to cover the exposed tipping floor. Without compliance, the operation will soon be shut down. While stormwater runoff is required to be controlled, currently only the water used to wash the tipping floor is controlled — and it is collected and shipped off-island, which costs the county more than $1,000 a month. Another compliance problem.

The county leases the two acres that constitute the transfer station/recycle facility. The facility is working at 185 percent capacity, which is a severe safety hazard. Why not expand? To quote the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that was recently made public, the current site is “surrounded by parcels zoned Agricultural Resource … and Rural Residential.” “Surrounded” means there’s nowhere to expand to.

At this time, all stormwater runoff and any other drainage except that which is collected and trucked off island just flows down onto agricultural resource land on its way toward the Land Bank parcel below. That particular piece of land used to be mowed for hay but is now receiving too much water for mowing and has become wetland.

Other drawbacks noted in the EIS include shortage of capacity to store hazardous waste, noting that “limited drop-off dates may cause some people to dispose of hazardous waste improperly.” “Groundwater contamination has been detected from [the] existing capped landfill.” Arborists have concluded that the large impervious surface of the capped landfill is probably what has caused most of the forest downhill from the dump to die.

“Lack of tipping floor space for waste storage” and “inadequate queuing room for traffic,” “the need for a second scale”, “the lack of a pull-through truck bay” and “lack of recycling facilities” all point to the need for a greatly expanded solid waste facility.

In 1996, the county commissioners approved a Solid Waste Management Plan that looked forward toward the ultimate replacement of the small transfer station developed on the borders of the decades-old public dump. The plan’s objectives included consideration of the environment and of people’s needs, cost effectiveness, aggressive waste reduction through recycling and reuse, and full compliance with state and local permitting and requirements.

The outgrown transfer station on Sutton Road has become a liability to the county. In order to expand its services, much more acreage must be acquired, with the proper zoning. This is part of caring for our islands and our future.

Mary WillAllen
Hillview Terrace
Friday Harbor

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