All Snohomish County Solid Waste transfer stations and drop boxes will return to regular business hours this weekend, May 14 and 15, after crews averted a health and safety emergency, the county said in a Wednesday morning press release.
County staff worked long days inside closed solid waste facilities May 7-8 to clear a backlog of garbage that piled up, allowing for the cancellation of a second weekend of closures, the county announcement said. However, the underlying issues that caused the original emergency persist and will need to be addressed in the coming weeks and months.
“We know the closure was an inconvenience, and we appreciate our customers’ patience last weekend,” Snohomish County Public Works Director Kelly Snyder said. “We stopped the immediate health and safety hazard, but there is much more work and coordination left to do with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), Republic Services, Waste Management and others to prevent additional closures later this spring and summer.”
In total, crews cleared nearly 5,400 tons (over 10 million pounds) of refuse from the Airport Road Recycling and Transfer Station (ARTS) in Everett and Southwest Recycling and Transfer Station (SWRTS) in Montlake Terrace.
The cause of the backlog stems from hiring and supply chain issues with contracted waste removal service partners. A shortage of rail space on trains needed to transport the refuse from the county’s solid waste facilities to landfills led to a slow buildup of excess garbage since the first of the year. However, in recent months, the piles grew significantly, triggering health and safety concerns.
According to the county, solid waste crews have been working for weeks to reduce the backlog through contracted vendors Republic Services and BNSF as well as through an emergency-services contact with Waste Management. The last time a Snohomish County facility was closed due to maximum capacity was in 2008.
The Airport Road Recycling and Transfer Station in Everett is the busiest in the county, accounting for 49% of the refuse processed. The Southwest facility in Mountlake Terrace accounts for 28% and the North County (NCRTS) facility in Arlington, 23%. The Airport Road facility employs 30 staff, while Southwest has 24 and North County has 21.
Snohomish County Solid Waste processes nearly 600,000 tons of refuse annually, while serving more than 900,000 customers, the county aid.