Collaboration in Civic Spheres

King County Garbage Plans Raising Stink; Meeting Tonight

by July 11th, 2013

The King County Solid Waste Division is moving forward with plans to evaluate three potential sites for a new facility to replace the aging Algona Transfer Station. Residents of south King County Thursday night can learn more at a public meeting 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Auburn Senior Activity Center, where SWD officials will explain site selection criteria, and take comments and questions. A dark-horse candidate site previously rejected is now the county’s preferred choice, on West Valley Highway S. in Auburn. It has led to formation of resident group called “No North Auburn Dump.” Members are strenuously opposed and have taken to the Internet with a blog and Facebook page. They say another current alternative for which the county has already bought land in Algona next to the current site, is much more suitable.

Across the sprawling county outside of Seattle, the Solid Waste Division or SWD operates eight transfer stations including the Algona facility and two smaller “drop boxes” where haulers, businesses and citizens bring garbage and recyclables which then are transported to the county’s Cedar Hill Regional Landfill in Maple Valley, about 20 miles southeast from Seattle. Cedar Hill gets 800,000 tons of garbage annually from about 1.3 million patrons in several dozen towns. The county will have to export its garbage after Cedar Hill reaches its expected capacity in 2025 or 2026 but also says it wants to further explore the potential of converting some solid waste products to energy to cut volume and achieve efficiencies.

The three sites which will be evaluated for the South County facility in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to replace Algona are the new Algona site at 35101 West Valley Highway S. for which SWD has already bought land; and two in Auburn. One is at 901 C Street SW, and there’s the controversial current preferred alternative at 28721 West Valley Highway S. The key criteria, according to a meeting notice and overview of the process published online by SWD, are potential impact on wetlands, wildlife, aesthetics, groundwater, utilities,natural and built environment, utilities and the degree of resulting traffic, noise and odor. A “do nothing alternative” is also included in the EIS analyses, to keep the current Algona site open without replacement.

The preferred West Valley Highway S. site in Auburn had previously been discarded, Solid Waste says in its online overview, because most of the 15 acres were thought to be wetlands. But now it turns out that may not be true and there are major green industry business development opportunities at that site, helping to make it the top contender, SWD says. It is in the City of Auburn’s Innovative Partnership Zone.

Marie-Anne Harkness of No North Auburn Dump said in an email it is puzzling why the county wants the north Auburn site because it has already paid to purchase land parcels near the current Algona site a year ago. The two parcels now specifically comprising the new Algona alternative, at 35101 West Valley Highway S., cost nearly $3 million, according to the county.

Harkness says she feels the North Auburn site isn’t appropriate because it is “on land next to 12 farm families” and lacks the most suitable zoning of M2 Heavy Industrial. Opponents also emphasize the bird species and other wildlife attributes of the North Auburn alternative. Harkness in a recent public records request seeks information about the decision-making process so far and any related land-banking expenditures by the county.

Minutes of the King County Solid Waste Advisory Committee meeting of May 18, 2012 do reflect (on page six, here) that King County SWD did buy property from Interwest Development “adjacent to the current Algona transfer station to preserve it as an option subject to” site election and environmental review processes.

Public Data Ferret’s Environment archive

The draft EIS is to be released this November, with public comments then formally received and a Final EIS incorporating those comments and agency responses, issued by June 2014. The current project schedule calls for SWD to recommend a preferred alternative to King County Executive Dow Constantine by July 2014 and for him to choose a site in August of that year.

County-wide, four to five transfer stations overall are to be replaced to meet projected 2030 demand, surmounting current capacity and design shortcomings. Thirty-two cities have signed a new inter-local agreement or ILA to keep contracting with the county to handle their garbage and recycling until 2040.

Meanwhile, a recent report from the county auditor’s Capital Projects Oversight program on the planned Factoria replacement structure of 80,000 square feet said it could prove to be too big if five cities that haven’t yet renewed their participation in the solid waste ILA to continue to 2040 don’t do so by 2028 when their participation in the pact currently is set to expire. Those cities are Bellevue, Clyde Hill, Hunts Point, Medina and Yarrow Bay. Bellevue accounts for nine to ten percent of the county’s solid waste load, the other four cities very little.

The audit report also warns that SWD is at least a month-and-a-half behind schedule in the process leading to selection of a builder for the Factoria facility, which might delay 2014 construction work and result in weather-related groundwater risks to the project that could cause complications or further delays.

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