Cheney solid waste plan gets preliminary thumbs up
Department of Ecology wants more readability in document city will use to separate from county system
Cheney has taken another step closer to becoming self-sufficient with its municipal waste disposal system.
At its Nov. 26, 2013 meeting the City Council authorized Public Works Director Todd Ableman and staff to proceed with plans to create the city’s own solid waste disposal system. Currently the city has its own collection trucks, but transports the accumulated waste to the city of Spokane-owned Waste to Energy Plant on Geiger Boulevard, northeast of Spokane International Airport.
The city has been part of a 25-year regional agreement with Spokane and other county jurisdictions to haul solid waste to the incinerator or transfer stations in north Spokane County at Colbert and in the Spokane Valley. That agreement is ending this November as Spokane has ceded control of the transfer stations and regional collection system to the county while retaining ownership of the West Plains incinerator.
Spokane County is purchasing the two transfer stations for $9.9 million.
Cheney submitted its solid waste comprehensive plan to the state Department of Ecology in January, initiating a 120-day review and comment period. Ableman said last Friday the city has received some preliminary comments from DOE that bode well for acceptance, comments mainly on the plans readability with the general public.
“If anybody was to pick up our plan, can they follow things and see what were doing,” he said. “There’s nothing I see as earth shattering, or as a stop measure.”
The base assumptions for much of Cheney’s plan comes from a city-prepared 2012 comprehensive solid waste management study, using 2011 figures, that forecasts the city’s annual solid waste tonnage to increase by over 12 percent by 2021– the length of time the county estimates it would take to pay off the purchase of the transfer stations. That tonnage is estimated to grow to 23.2 percent by 2031.
If projected gate fees included in an August 2013 solid waste transfer/disposal alternatives analysis prepared for the county by HDR Engineering are applied to the increased tonnage, the amount Cheney pays for disposal would increase by 29.2 percent ($799,110) by 2021 alone. In contrast, the city paid $565,760 in 2011.
Gate fees are the amount charged jurisdictions to dispose of waste at the incinerator or transfer stations.
Spokane County Utilities Director Kevin Cooke said it’s important to remember the HDR figures are for comparison purposes only, and are not meant to be used as final gate fees. Current gate fees at the incinerator are $99.50 per ton, and $103 per ton at the transfer stations.
The county is currently awaiting the return of requests for proposals from several companies interested in contracting to operate the two transfer stations. Those RFPs were due back March 31, but Cooke said they have extended that to early April.
“We’re trying to meet or beat that $103 fee,” he said.
Cheney would also like to beat that fee, but by a larger number. Part of the issue for the city is gate fees also pay for other waste services such as recycling, yard waste and public education programs — services the city is already providing.
“All we’re asking for is disposal — only,” Ableman said. “We feel we just need more flexibility in our system.”
Ableman said the city of Spokane is getting $54 a ton in gate fees because they run their own disposal programs, just as Cheney does. Washington state law requires those programs, and Ableman said the city would like a credit from the county for those services; something Cooke said would be a challenge in the county system.
“If you start breaking it down, if you give a list of options (to cities) you end up with a very unmanageable system,” he added.
Should Cheney receive final DOE approval, the next step will have the city issuing its RFPs for disposal services following several options from the 2012 study. Those include long hauling of waste by truck to other disposal sites, or long hauling via rail to the Roosevelt Regional Landfill in Klickitat County.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.