Tons managed at transfer stations 153,203 194,767
Tons taken to landfill 127,683 165,544
Total transactions (transfer stations, rural sites) 580,168 674,855
SOURCE: Kootenai County Solid Waste
COEUR d'ALENE — Kootenai County has been putting out fires — literally and figuratively — at its two transfer stations and some of its 13 rural collection sites.
An increase in waste from sources outside Kootenai County, fires believed to be caused by improperly discarded batteries, vandalism, illegal disposal and scavenging are among the problems the Solid Waste Department is battling, Director Cathy Mayer said.
"The solid waste system is solely for the use of citizens with property in Kootenai County who have paid the annual solid waste fee," she said. "Waste must be generated from a property located in Kootenai County and disposers are identified by license plate, window sticker or proof of residency."
Mayer said the county has launched a public awareness campaign with its staff at the scales and collection sites. Also, letters have been sent to identified offenders in hopes of maximizing the life of the landfill at Fighting Creek. The landfill is considered the envy of other area county solid waste departments that have to haul their waste to landfills as far as western Washington and Missoula.
Mayer said she's also asked the sheriff's office to help keep an eye on the rural sites when deputies are in those areas. Surveillance, whenever possible, is being implemented.
"We'd rather educate people on how to handle the waste properly rather than ticket people," said Mayer, adding that some of the offenders don't realize they're acting illegally.
Mayer said that on one recent weekend day, staff at Kootenai County's Rose Lake collection site turned away 95 Shoshone County residents.
Shannon Atkins, office manager for Shoshone County's transfer station in Kellogg, said she thinks some Shoshone County residents believe they’ll have to pay an extra fee to dispose of larger items such as tires, appliances and furniture at the Kellogg station, so they take those things to the Rose Lake site. Others, she said, simply are unaware that Rose Lake is in Kootenai County.
"As long as residents pay the annual solid waste fee (of $80) and have a sticker, there is no additional charge," Atkins said, adding that construction debris costs extra.
Kootenai County residential property owners are assessed a $93 annual fee.
On the other side of Kootenai County toward the state line, Mayer said the problem, particularly at the transfer station near Post Falls, has been contractors disposing of construction debris that was generated in Washington.
"It can be difficult to prove, but we're trying to ask for work orders and make contractors aware of it," Mayer said.
Mayer said that activity is likely driven by Kootenai County's lower fee per ton than the Washington side. The county's gate fee for contractors is $67.70 per ton compared to $96.27 in Spokane Valley.
Increasing the construction debris issue, Mayer said, is the housing and economic boom and demolition projects.
With the proliferation of lithium-ion batteries, the Ramsey and Prairie transfer stations recently had fires at the same time that temporarily shut down both facilities, Mayer said. Both incidents were likely the result of improper battery disposal.
"It is critical that these items be properly managed through the household hazardous waste and special waste disposal programs and not disposed with trash," Mayer said.
Other items that contribute to solid waste fires include the disposal of hot ashes, fuel, chemicals, fireworks, tobacco products and e-cigarettes.
Only household waste is allowed at the rural sites. Items such as tires, batteries, carpet, appliances, construction debris, large bulky items and hazardous materials are not permitted and should be taken to the transfer stations.
"The rural stations regularly require special cleanups to remove the prohibited items that can't be hauled by the waste contractor," Mayer said.
Dumpster diving is unsafe, unsanitary and a misdemeanor in Kootenai County, Mayer said.
"This continues to occur at rural sites with violators leaving waste outside bins and vandalizing bins," she said.
For more information, call Kootenai County at 208-446-1430 or visit https://bit.ly/2lkBs5X or Shoshone County at 208-784-5190, https://bit.ly/2JUXTNF.