Kootenai County plans to eventually dump its 17 rural Dumpsters so it has more control over what people throw in them.
The first dump site on the closure list is Cougar Gulch, about four miles south of Coeur d’Alene just west of U.S. Highway 95.
Next week, Solid Waste Director Roger Saterfiel will hold a press conference at the Twin Lakes dump to announce the county’s plan for making county’s garbage collection system better managed and more efficient.
Saterfiel said the goal is to leave five rural dump sites open. He wasn’t specific about the locations but said most county residents won’t have to drive more than 12 miles to dump their trash. Consolidating the rural sites will help the county patrol each location so people aren’t pouring toxic chemicals such as antifreeze on the ground or filling Dumpsters with waste from building sites.
The county also plans to open a new transfer station near Post Falls on Pleasantview Road in the next two years, alleviating pressure on the Ramsey Road transfer station.
The idea isn’t popular with neighbors around these free rural sites who don’t want to drive to Coeur d’Alene to dump their trash. Some property owners also fear people will start littering their land with trash, appliances and old furniture.
Saterfiel said the county isn’t closing the sites because of illegal dumping, even though he said all the sites are abused.
“The killer is not controlling it,” Saterfiel said, referring to the need to ensure people are recycling or properly disposing of chemicals. He also brought up potential problems with identity theft when people can sift through garbage for credit card bills and other personal information.
Most of the things people illegally dump at the rural sites can be taken to the Ramsey Road transfer station for free, but Saterfiel said that doesn’t always happen.
“That’s what baffles me,” Saterfiel said.
Initially the county planned to close the six Cougar Gulch Dumpsters by Tuesday. But after neighbors complained, the Kootenai County Commission agreed to give them until Sept. 8 to figure out an alternative.
The Dumpsters are hidden from the highway by a redwood fence. A large sign screwed into the wood reads, “Public Notice. This site will be closed Aug. 3.”
Underneath the sign, someone wrote in looping handwriting, “Less service, less tax?”
Donna Erickson said about a dozen neighbors met this week and is researching several options, including door-to-door private garbage collection and finding a new site to put private Dumpsters that only Cougar Gulch residents could use.
One idea is to put the Dumpsters behind the local community center, but Erickson said not everyone is happy with that idea.
“Our options are limited,” Erickson said.
Saterfiel estimates that a private Dumpster could cost the 400 residents near Cougar Gulch no more than $10 a month.
Cougar Gulch is first on the county’s closure list because it is the closest to the Ramsey Road transfer station. It also is just feet away from the wetlands bisected by Highway 95. Saterfiel said the environmental concerns are great because of the dump’s proximity to the lake, and the likelihood people are dumping chemicals.
All property owners in Kootenai County, even those inside city limits, pay an $84 annual fee to run the county landfill.
That enables everyone within the county to dump their residential garbage – up to 2,000 pounds – for free either at the transfer station or the 17 rural sites. Commercial businesses are charged $61 per ton.
Saterfiel said that’s a bargain compared to other areas. In Spokane, residents pay $103 per ton.
That’s why, he said, many Spokane business are coming to Kootenai County to dump their trash.
With Kootenai County’s population growth, Saterfiel said there’s been an 18 percent growth rate in the amount of waste coming through the system.
And that’s another reason he said the county needs to manage garbage collection better, by making sure things are recycled, so the landfill near Fighting Creek doesn’t fill up too soon.
The new Post Falls transfer station will have about 3,300 feet of railroad track going through it, allowing the county to eventually ship garbage to other landfills.
Saterfiel estimates it would cost the county an additional $8 million a year to ship garbage to other locations if the current county landfill reaches capacity too quickly. The county is planning a landfill expansion that would extend its life span to 2018.