Solid waste has spun out of control

People doing re-roofing or remodel work generate heavy demolition debris. Disposal for these loads on San Juan means either unloading by hand at the San Juan transfer station or hauling the load to the transfer station on Orcas. In either case the cost for the San Juan customer is two or three times the cost of disposal on the mainland.

Added on top of the Orcas option for San Juan customers is the cost of the inter-island ferry ticket and the wages lost or paid for the trip. The citizens on San Juan are getting short changed. Building contractors are concerned about the added cost to their clients. Orcas customers can still dump large loads. Those on San Juan can not.

I would expect that members of the general public who are trying to save money have figured out the savings available if they self-haul to the mainland. Technically self- hauling waste to the mainland is illegal. The State/County has something called “flow control” to prevent the disposal companies and the public from shopping around for the best disposal service and price. “Flow control” is how a government-regulated monopoly can protect itself from competition.

The Town of Friday Harbor is exempt from “flow control” and is finding it is cost effective to haul their garbage to the mainland. Unlike the town, private parties are not exempt from “flow control” rules.

I don’t know how closely “flow control” is enforced and do not advise people to break the law. However, the current situation of garbage disposal costs in the islands is unacceptable. Hopefully the county will not hide behind a monopoly-protecting “flow control” ordinance but instead will choose to operate a program that is cost competitive. For the county this will be hard because of accumulated imbedded costs in the program.

I don’t blame anyone who surveys the market for the services or products they need and searches out the best price. Most of us are willing to pay a little more for some local services, recognizing the cost of ferry travel. However, many feel that subsidizing the county solid waste monopoly at two or three times the cost of the same basic service available on the mainland is over the top. To add insult to injury, there are now proposals on the table to further subsidizing this expensive County monopoly … with a new property or parcel tax.

John Evans

Executive Director

San Juan Builders Association