Garbage-enforcing sheriff’s deputies will return to the beat

EVERETT — Snohomish County has revived a program that assigns sheriff’s deputies to enforce rules for commercial trash haulers.

The program was active from 2009 to 2014, then discontinued over staffing and budget issues. By bringing it back, solid waste officials hope to keep some 76,000 tons of garbage flowing to Snohomish County transfer stations this year, along with $4.9 million in gross revenue.

“If you want to play this out long term, the more tonnage that leaves the system, the higher everybody’s rates would become to pay for that loss,” said J.R. Myers, the county’s flow-control project manager.

Revenue from the added waste volume would supply the $250,000 needed to pay for the two deputies to watch over commercial trucks and recycling yards.

The Sheriff’s Office supports the partnership.

“In addition to solid waste enforcement, these two deputies will also conduct commercial vehicle enforcement, ensuring the safety of our Snohomish County roadways,” sheriff’s office spokeswoman Shari Ireton said.

The County Council voted 3-0 on Wednesday to approve the proposal.

Many jurisdictions in Washington have “flow control” ordinances giving them authority over where locally produced trash ends up. The laws are intended to ensure that solid waste systems pay for themselves, and to keep rates lower.

During the years the enforcement program remained active here, deputies followed commercial trucks to rural landfills in places such as Yakima and Cowlitz counties. Companies made the journey to undercut Snohomish County’s tipping fee of $105 per ton, sometimes paying just a third of that rate and saving thousands of dollars per trip.

Deputies issued three citations related to such violations in 2011.

In 2013, the county threatened two recycling companies with $1.8 million in fines. The county ended up reaching settlements for substantially less.

United Recycling Co. agreed in October 2013 to pay $10,500 for four violations. The county suspended fines for other violations if no problems surfaced for three years after the settlement. The Clearview company also does business as Topsoils Inc. and United Recycling &Container.

McAuliffe Auto Sales, which also does business as Maltby Container &Recycling, agreed in May 2014 to pay $10,500, but denied committing any violations. As part of the agreement, the company would face $100,000 in fines if any other violations were to surface within three years of the settlement.

A third company, Drywall Recycling Services Inc., of Maltby, agreed in December 2013 to pay the county $4,500, but also denied committing any violations.

The enforcement program was discontinued in 2015 because of budget and staffing problems. Myers said the amount of waste flowing through county transfer stations dropped as a direct result.

Enforcement is expected to resume in April. Deputies would join a code enforcement officer also tasked to solid waste issues.

The county has lowered tipping fees for recycling companies to encourage them to use local transfer stations. Instead of $105 per ton, they pay $65 per ton.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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