Coos County holds the keys to a rare jewel in waste management in the form of a DEQ and EPA compliant incineration facility at the Beaver Hill Disposal Site. Unlike unsightly landfills, which would not work in Coos County because of high water tables, Beaver Hill converts our trash into a fine ash stored in grass covered trenches that are pH monitored. In 1994 voters decided to invest $7 million to upgrade the facility and today it still meets all emission standards and also unlike many landfills, there is more than a decade left before the existing trenches fill up. Should this facility stop operating as an incinerator there is probably no chance of obtaining a new permit due to stringent environmental regulations which in itself makes the facility worth its weight in rhodium but because the county cannot have a landfill the county would be required to and dependent upon shipping its solid waste out of the county. Shipping waste out of the county does not relieve the county of liability for any hazardous waste and leaves the county vulnerable to litigation.
Nevertheless, there is a concerted effort to close the facility, sell it to Waste Connections for use as a transfer station and watch our rates double or triple. As has been revealed on this site and at Our County Site which is maintained by Randy Sanne, Waste Connections began cutting back on its use of the facility in violation of an agreement signed by management and the Coos County Commission in 2003. The agreement clearly states that Waste Connections “shall continue to deliver the prior three (3) years’ rolling average tons of acceptable solid waste, adjusted for growth , collected from unincorporated areas of Coos County to the Beaver Hill solid waste disposal facility for so long as the Beaver Hill facility is owned and operated by Coos County”
For reasons that cannot be explained the previous and current commissions have chosen not to enforce this agreement even though it has reduced revenue and put this taxpayer investment at risk. In addition to not delivering the tonnage the company appears to be using the site to dump and store mountains of glass recycling rather than delivering it to a recycling facility.
Instead of enforcing the agreement and asking for compensation for the light tonnages as Lane County does, this commission is using a repair issue and citing safety as a reason to shut the facility down for up to six months and contract to haul our trash out of county. The decision to shut down all three burners, when two can continue to operate safely, was recommended by two staff members but it is not a consensus view. More staff agree there is no reason why sections cannot be isolated and repairs made while continuing to operate the plant.
Additionally, the commissioners have raised the issue of a reduction in force while the plant is shut down but because the department is self insured the county will still be paying unemployment, benefits and vacations yet receiving no services in exchange for that expense. Add this cost to the contract to ship the trash by truck or by rail and this decision cannot be looked at as a good deal for the taxpayer.
No one, of course, believes for a second that the commission has any intentions of firing BHDS back up despite there being more than enough money in the departments contingency fund, over $2.5 million, to catch up on repairs and maintenance. Waste Connections has been panting after this site since 2009 and different commissioners have done their best to deliver and if Messerle has a mission, getting the site to Waste Connections is one of them.
Some email exchanges between DEQ officials who have finally taken note of the fall off of tonnage delivered to BHDS and comparing tonnage delivered by the company out of the county may have motivated the county to take advantage of this repair and blown it into a safety issue to help the company avoid paying its fair share which may amount to a fair chunk of change now. Whatever the reason, converting the facility to transfer site will immediately turn a multimillion dollar asset into a huge liability with millions of dollars in associated closure costs. All this rather than enforce an agreement with one company.
People have characterized the proposed Bandon Marsh expansion as a federal “land grab”. This maneuver to close BHDS is also a grab in reverse and we should all be fighting tooth and nail to remind these commissioners they should be protecting our assets not Waste Connections’ shareholders. Those shiny spots on Messerle’s forehead are his horns trying to break the surface and if you take a whiff you can smell the sulphur.
The commissioners will bring this matter before the public at Tuesday’s BOC meeting as a late agenda item. Rally the troops and be there if you can. If not call and email the county and make sure they do a cost benefit analysis before they decide to shut down all three burners.
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