Council tries to keep garbage transfer station out of Woodinville

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman, News Writer

BrightwaterPhoto by Briana Gerdeman. King County is considering where to open a new solid waste transfer station. Several Woodinville City Council members say that since Woodinville already has two waste management plants, including Brightwater Treatment Plant (shown above), the city shouldn’t also get a garbage transfer station. King County is trying to find a place for a new garbage transfer station, and Woodinville’s City Council is trying to make sure it doesn’t end up here.

At last week’s City Council meeting, the council reviewed a preliminary plan for solid waste transfer in King County. (When garbage is picked up, it goes to transfer stations before going to landfills by train.)

King County’s current solid waste transfer plan needs to be updated because current facilities in Algona, Bow Lake, Factoria, Houghton and Renton were built in the 1960s. Now they’re operating over capacity, don’t offer enough recycling and don’t meet safety goals.

"They’re aging and kind of not really able to handle today’s capacity," Zach Schmitz, Woodinville’s management analyst, said.

King County has proposed several possible plans, some of which involve opening a new northeast transfer station. The northeast transfer station, which could be located in Woodinville, would serve Woodinville, Bothell, Redmond, Kirkland, Duvall, Carnation and a portion of unincorporated King County.

Council members said Woodinville wasn’t the best place for a garbage transfer station and tried to come up with other solutions.

Councilmember Les Rubstello said King County’s analysis was biased toward Kirkland and Bellevue, particularly since it focused on closing the Houghton station in Kirkland.

"This thing is riddled with lines about what Kirkland doesn’t want. I see something in there about what Bellevue won’t want — it says Bellevue won’t permit it," Rubstello said. "And so what I want to know, where’s Woodinville in this? How come there’s nothing that says, ‘Woodinville doesn’t want it either?’"

So far, the plan has based the locations of transfer stations on the constraint that citizens shouldn’t have to drive more than half an hour to a garbage station, but that’s not the most important concern, Rubstello said.

"The metric is not how far you have to drive, but whether there’s one in your backyard," he said. "If you asked all of the solid waste customers, ‘Would you rather drive 10 minutes further to dump your garbage or have it in your town?’, I think everybody would vote, ‘I’d rather drive 10 minutes.’ So the metric for maximizing or optimizing this system isn’t minimizing driving hours, it’s minimizing impact to the community by placing these stations."

Mayor Bernie Talmas pointed out that since planning began in 2007, King County has produced less garbage than forecasted, and Bellevue has opted out of the system, which reduces the county’s garbage by 10 percent.

"The question for us is, if the county goes ahead and builds the Factoria station as planned, will it be large enough to accommodate trash from Woodinville and the northeast? If it is, there’s no need for a northeast transfer station," Talmas said.

If Woodinville ended up using the Factoria station, he said, Woodinville residents would probably pay more for garbage collection since the trucks would have to travel farther.

"If it’s going to cost us…$0.35...up to a maximum of $0.59 per house per month, that might be acceptable to the Woodinville folks instead of having a transfer station built here,"

Talmas said. "If it’s $10 a month, it might be a different answer."

Councilmember Susan Boundy-Sanders said that based on her conversation with King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert, the county should adhere to codes of social equity.

Since Woodinville already has the other two kinds of waste — Cascade Recycling Center inside the city limits and Brightwater Treatment Plant just outside the city limits — the city shouldn’t also have to have a garbage station.

"We’ve already taken more than our fair share of the overall waste management burden," Boundy-Sanders said. "We would be well within our rights to say, ‘We’ve done our part.’"

Lambert echoed what Boundy-Sanders and Talmas said at the meeting — that the county’s garbage production has gone down since people are recycling more and producing less trash, so the county might not need a northeast transfer station, and that the station shouldn’t be in Woodinville because the city already has two other waste management plants.

Instead of building another transfer station, which would send garbage to another community or state, Lambert wants to see King County use newer technology that converts waste to energy. These facilities, which are popular in Europe, turn trash into energy through "thermal reclamation," or incineration.

"I feel like I’ve been to the Jetsons, and now I’m looking at the Flintstones," Lambert said, comparing the European waste-to-energy facilities she saw to King County’s current facilities. "What they’re doing there is so far ahead of what we’re doing here that I was spellbound."

She said the waste-to-energy plants are surprisingly small, clean and environmentally friendly. They produce less methane than landfills and would help keep garbage costs low.

The King County Council will decide what types of waste management plants the county needs and where to put them within the next few years, after a public hearing and input from regional groups.

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