County, haulers fight over garbage


Staff writer

A local garbage hauler has filed a complaint against King County in Superior Court, saying the county illegally raised the fee it charges haulers bringing garbage from their own transfer stations to the Cedar Hills landfill.

Rabanco, the private hauler, says the $10-a-ton increase on garbage coming from its own transfer stations would essentially put the facilities out of business.

A King County Superior Court judge approved a 60-day injunction March 31, preventing the county from collecting the fee increase, which would have gone into effect April 1.

Still, most local officials don’t foresee either the complaint or the fee increase having an immediate affect on garbage customers in Federal Way.

Private haulers, like Rabanco or Waste Management, pick up garbage customers leave on the curb or in Dumpsters and truck it either to their own transfer stations or to transfer stations operated by the county.

If the private haulers take it to their own stations, they consolidate it there and then take it to the Cedar Hills landfill. Until recently, the county gave them a break on the tipping fee — the charge to dump at the landfill — if they transported the solid waste themselves, said Rob Van Orstow, Federal Way’s solid waste and recycling coordinator.

If they take it to a county transfer station, “that’s the end of the road,” Rabanco vice president Pete Keller said. County solid-waste workers consolidate it and truck it to the Cedar Hills landfill.

In King County, Rabanco provides garbage collection services to Des Moines, Tukwila, Algona, some cities on the Eastside, Lake Forest Park in the north end, and some unincorporated areas.

Federal Way’s solid waste is collected by Waste Management of Washington Inc.

Officials said Federal Way’s garbage collection customers don’t have much to worry about. The city is about halfway through a five-year contract with Waste Management and has the sole option of renewing the current contract twice — which essentially keeps the rates close to what they are now for the next six years, Van Orsow said

In addition, Waste Management already takes most of Federal Way’s garbage to the county’s transfer station in Algona because it’s so close, said Jerry Hardebeck, the company’s municipal contract manager.

Rabanco officials said the county’s fee increase affects 150,000 tons of garbage per year that goes from Rabanco’s own transfer stations to the Cedar Hills landfill. The $10-per-ton increase comes out to $1.5 million a year that Rabanco won’t be able to recover, Keller said.

Private haulers can’t just raise rates on their customers in response to cost increases, because the state utilities commission requires local utility companies to meet with the commission and show why they need to increase their rates.

The discussion surrounding the fee increase began last year, when County Executive Ron Sims announced the county would suffer a budget shortfall of $24 million. County officials began looking for cost savings and realized the Cedar Hills landfill hadn’t been paying “rent” to the county.

The county owns the landfill — it was donated by the state in 1992 — and the Solid Waste Division is part of county government, but the two are supposed to remain mutually exclusive.

For the Solid Waste Division to be using the Cedar Hills landfill, it should have been paying rent to the county general fund, county officials said. Sims set a $7 million annual payment the division is now required to pay for use of the landfill.

The division had to find the revenue to make their “rent,” so the division decided to increase tipping fees for private haulers bringing garbage from their own transfer stations.

Hardebeck said Waste Management is “certainly sympathetic to the complaint filed by Rabanco,” but said his company isn’t anticipating filing a similar complaint of its own. In fact, Waste Management has already started converting its only transfer station, located in south Seattle, into a recycling station for construction and demolition debris, he said.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565,

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