Local firms fined $1.5M for waste disposal violations

A whopping $1.5 million in fines are in the mail to some local recycling businesses.

Snohomish County made good this week on a promise to enforce its laws against hauling waste to other counties, where disposal fees are cheaper.

County solid waste officials said in April they would be moving against two local recycling companies.

County officials later met with the businesses, or their attorneys, in an effort to resolve the cases, county solid waste director Matt Zybas said. The county moved ahead with the fines after the companies failed to get back in touch.

“Ultimately, we’re looking for compliance,” Zybas said.

The county mailed the fines Wednesday.

Maltby Container and Recycling faces $939,000 in penalties.

The amount is $487,500 for United Recycling, of Snohomish.

The cases against those companies is based partly on search warrants in Cowlitz and Yakima counties.

Fine amounts were based on the number of days of violations, rather than truckloads, Zybas said. The county accuses Maltby Container of committing violations on more than 300 days, and United Recycling on more than 160 days.

“There could have been multiple trips on one of those days,” he said.

A third company is being fined based on observations of trash shipments on 12 days, Zybas said. Drywall Recycling Services of Mill Creek faces $34,500 in penalties.

The recent fines are the largest to emerge from regulations requiring that all trash generated in Snohomish County pass through the county solid waste system. The county says that’s necessary to pay for garbage infrastructure, which is supported by user fees rather than tax dollars.

“When people dispose of waste outside the system, it increases the price for everyone else who complies with the code,” Zybas said.

Two county deputies are assigned full time to monitor compliance with county solid waste laws.

Regulatory conflicts have arisen here over how recycling companies dispose of leftover materials they can’t reprocess.

Fees drop significantly at some dumps elsewhere in the state.

Tipping fees at Snohomish County transfer stations are $105 per ton. Landfills in some other counties charge less than a third of that. For a truck carrying 25 to 30 tons of garbage, the savings could approach $2,000 per load.

Some of the companies have complained that the county’s solid waste rules, amended over the past few years, threaten to put them out of business.

To address some of those concerns, county leaders lowered the tipping fees recycling companies pay to $82 per ton in 2011, and lowered them again in 2012, to $65 per ton.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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