Due to ongoing regional railway transportation issues, Snohomish County said it will close all solid waste transfer stations and drop boxes Sunday, Sept. 18 and 25, as well as temporarily not accept green waste and wood debris. The scheduled closures will allow staff to remove excess garbage, which is reaching hazard levels.
“Even though on the national level a tentative agreement has been reached to avoid a railway workers strike, we continue to have railway transportation issues from our county facilities to regional landfills. The railway slowdown is causing the garbage to pile up at our transfer stations,” said Snohomish County Public Works Director Kelly Snyder. “Safety remains our number-one concern and we have to take action.”
The excess garbage is prompting health, safety and environmental concerns for customers and staff similar to the challenges experienced during May 2022 when the county closed transfer stations for two consecutive days to clear out excess garbage. Piles of refuse pose a risk of fire and other dangers to staff and customers.
“These two Sunday closures will allow our crews to relieve the system stress by clearing some of the backlog that is building up,” Solid Waste Director Dave Schonhard said. “By closing on two Sundays, we hope to minimize the impact on commercial curbside pickup for county residents.”
Additionally, effective Sept. 21, Snohomish County will temporarily stop accepting yard debris at all facilities. Due to the amount of refuse on the floor, green waste and wood debris is being contaminated at Snohomish County facilities and must be disposed of as solid waste. This is also contributing to the backlog of waste in the facilities and uses valuable space in containers being transported for disposal in a landfill. The county is encouraging residents to take green waste and wood debris to alternate locations. A list of those local businesses is below.
Snohomish County continues to work closely with Republic Services, Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), Waste Management, and local solid waste haulers, to find an immediate resolution to these ongoing issues.
Many of these issues continue to affect local solid waste facilities throughout the Puget Sound area and into Western Canada. Skagit and Island County solid waste facilities have also had temporary closures during spring and summer of this year due to these ongoing rail issues.
While it appears that the rail worker unions have reached a tentative agreement with the class 1 railroads, however, the unions must still vote and ratify these agreements. A strike would mean a complete closure of solid waste transfer stations and drop boxes because no refuse could be moved to regional landfills. This would impact the weekly curbside pick-up of garbage, recycle and green waste for households and businesses.
County officials are urging residents to seek reduce, reuse, recycling options for reusable items. Donating household items, books or clothing that are reusable to thrift stores or other outlets such as selling on community classifieds or market-place community groups online are always a better alternative than throwing them away.
In early January 2022, solid waste transfer stations began experiencing the lack of needed containers via rail from BNSF, and during the next five months, garbage was piling up at the facilities. In April, the Snohomish County Council approved an emergency contract with Waste Management Inc. to aid Snohomish County solid waste in the removal of excess refuse at local transfer stations. The $2 million short-term waste transportation and disposal agreement gives county Solid Waste workers the ability to transport more garbage out of county facilities through the end of October. A railroad strike would also likely affect the Union Pacific Railroad, which Waste Management uses to transport waste-by-rail to its regional landfill in Oregon.
Refuse has been at sustainable levels throughout the summer, but recently began to build up again due to railway staffing issues along with intermodal container shortages. The lack of a daily required number of intermodal containers to haul garbage have impacted the county for the last eight months and continues to cause garbage piles and heightens the risk fires at county transfer stations.
County residents who plan to visit solid waste facilities should check the lines on the county website at www.snohomishcountywa.gov/5431/Check-the-Lines
Here is a list of alternate locations to take green waste and wood debris:
- Snohomish (360-568-8826)
- Yard waste only. No sod, dirt, or rocks.
Cedar Grove Composting
- Everett, Woodinville, Kenmore (877-764-5748)
- No wood or limbs greater than 4 inches in diameter; no noxious weeds
- Stanwood (360-629-2933)
- No mixed loads, treated lumber, dirt, or rocks
- Woodinville, Everett, Kenmore (425-337-2700)
- No mixed loads, plywood, or treated lumber
Reece Aggregates and Recycling
- Arlington (360-403-7520)
- No treated lumber or garbage
- Snohomish (425-379-9933)
- No treated wood or pallets