Public Works Director Frank Mulcahy told the San Juan County Council Tuesday residents should see changes in the solid waste system around the end of August 2012. The changes follow rejection by the voters of a parcel fee which would have kept the three transfer stations open.
The rejection switches the solid waste program to a mandatory curbside pickup system. Plan B, as it is called, was created by a few citizens rather than the entire Solid Waste Advisory Committee (SWAC).
Since the vote, the County Public Works Department, a cuncil subcommittee, and Administrator Pete Rose have been working to flesh out Plan B and come up with a time table.
"It's not quite as easy as just throwing a switch," said Mulcahy. "We want to make sure we have a smooth transition to the new system, which means we have to coordinate with a lot of agencies and entities including the county Council, the Department of Ecology, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission and - of course - San Juan Sanitation, the certified hauler that will take over many of the services we now provide."
Others with a major stake in the transition are the Port of Lopez, which has expressed an interest in taking over the Lopez facility; the operator of the Exchange at the Orcas facility; and the Town of Friday Harbor, the owner the county-operated facility on San Juan Island
The Public Works Department hopes to complete the transition by the end of August, but it has budgeted to continue current operations through the end of September in case there is a delay.
Before the transition is complete, the Council must adopt an updated Solid and Hazardous Waste Plan accommodating changes in solid waste handling. The plan must be approved by the Washington Department of Ecology. Part of planning process involves deciding how residents will dispose of medical wastes, large appliances, car batteries, motor oil, solvents, surplus pesticides, paint and other wastes which are potentially dangerous if they get into ground or surface water.
Decisions on how recycling will be handled, and what specific services will be required of the certified waste hauler must be made.
San Juan Sanitation will make decisions on purchasing equipment, recruiting and training employees once the "level of service' ordinances are adopted by the council. The LOS ordinances include how to provide service to residents in hard-to-reach areas of San Juan, Orcas and Lopez Islands
The County is ultimately responsible for the Solid Waste in the county. Its direct role in the solid waste system will be reduced, but responsibility and costs for monitoring decommissioned landfills and providing for services not offered by the certified hauler will continue.
Under state law, San Juan County remains responsible for insuring that the trash, recycling and hazardous wastes generated in this county are taken care of properly," said Mulcahy. "We're working very hard to make sure that the system we end up with meets that responsibility."
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