The Solid Waste Debacle in San Juan County

(Sent to the County Council and Island newspapers today)

After reading today’s article in the San Juan Islander entitled “SW budget based on OI Facility Only,” I am compelled to comment.  I will attempt to keep my comments respectful and civil, but the ludicrousness of the options being presented here makes that somewhat difficult.

While I understand that we face difficult budget choices, and apparently are going to pay dearly for our past choices in this policy area, the idea that an island county should live with zero or just one point for solid waste removal is alarming.

Curbside pickup can and should be more widely used.  Currently, San Juan Sanitation is not able to provide *weekly* pickup to many of the outlying island areas because many streets lack enough subscribers to warrant it.  Obviously, if curbside pickup were mandated, the density of customers would rise and hopefully San Juan Sanitation would respond by instituting county-wide weekly pickup of domestic garbage (and recycling!).  Any policy change here should involve discussions with SJS prior to enactment to ensure that they are ready and willing to move to a much more regular schedule of pickup for all subscribers.

Without this level of service, you as Council members are essentially telling the majority of the County’s population that we should accept that it might take half a day, or a full day, to dispose of a single load of refuse.  Under the “One Station” option, the minimum investment of time for disposing of household waste to Orcas from Friday Harbor would be three-plus hours, and often considerably longer, with a 20-plus dollar ferry fee in addition to whatever fees are assessed at the transfer station.

Under a “Zero Station” plan, that minimum investment of time is more like half a day to a full day.  As you all know, being County residents.  With a monetary cost of 50-plus dollars in addition to transfer station fees.

The fact that such an option is considered possible by the Council causes me to seriously question your judgment.

Mr. Shannon can hide behind his statement that he is merely presenting a plan which meets the requests he’s been given.

You, as Council members, cannot duck this responsibility.

I would ask that you stop presenting options that are clearly injurious to the vast bulk of your constituents, and do the politically hard but necessary thing, and give the voters of the county a plan to vote on, with options for taxes necessary to support it, that provides us with a reasonable minimum of solid waste infrastructure on each island where it is deemed necessary by that island’s inhabitants. This plan may include mandatory curbside pickup (on a frequent basis!) to minimize usage and costs at transfer stations, but the option of no transfer stations in the county is unrealistic.  If you proceed in this direction, I will make common cause with other county residents and fight this ludicrous and injurious plan.