Funding shortfall keeps facility under wraps: money to erect structure not available until possibly 2017.
It can be found at the eastern edge of Wenatchee near the traffic circle on Highway 97A.
That steel building may still be there until sometime next year, according to Chelan County Solid Waste Coordinator Brenda Blanchfield, who says the money to erect the facility just isn't in the budget.
A Chelan city councilman, who wished to remain anonymous, isn't too happy about the delay either. Although the site was bought by the county six years ago, progress has been slow and money from the state just isn't there, at least not at this time, Blanchfield said.
Blanchfield said one of her biggest small level hazardous waste contributors are real estate companies that regularly must clean out garages and sheds of homes to get them readied for sale.
Homes that are abandoned, foreclosed on or just sold in the normal day-to-day real estate transaction process are filled with pesticides, paints, automobile maintenance products and cleaning chemicals among other things. These items must be somehow stored by the real estate firms or be brought to a commercially licensed hazardous waste disposal company for eventual transport to a state-approved or operated burn or recycle facility, according to Blanchfield.
She estimates up to 80 percent of the waste is burned at these special disposal sites and about 20 percent ends up in a special landfill.
The as yet to be erected 4,000-square-foot acceptance center has great potential, but that potential will not be realized until another $150,000 is given to the county public works division from the state environmental budget for its completion.
Part of the reason the building lies under a tarp is because the county went out to bid for the project last June expecting the Legislature to provide the funding to finish the job. The money to pour the foundation and buy the building has been spent, but there is no money left to actually erect the building or finish incidentals like the landscaping and parking area.
Once completed, the facility will accept waste from conditionally exempt small quantity generators, small businesses that accumulate no more than 2,000 pounds per year and/or generate no more than 200 pounds per month, according to Blanchfield.
She noted the weight criteria includes many small businesses in Chelan County including dental practices, school science laboratories, fruit warehouses and others that generate little in the category of hazardous waste (See sidebar for specifics).
Chelan, Cashmere, Leavenworth, Entiat and Wenatchee citizens would all benefit from the enterprise because, as a county depot, all residents no matter what town they live in, would be eligible to drop off paint thinners, pesticides and other chemicals instead of potentially polluting the local environment and especially Lake Chelan, Wenatchee and Columbia Rivers, Icicle Creek and many other bodies of water, according to Blanchfield.
The not-too-pleased Chelan councilman said there's more to this tale than meets the eye.
"The state Legislature keeps moving the allocated money to other projects every two years," he said at a recent city council retreat held at the Lake Chelan Golf Course. "They took away nearly half a million dollars that was earmarked for the project before and they are doing it again this year."
Until the facility is up and running, hopefully sometime in 2017, Chelan, Manson, Dryden, Plain, Monitor and other rural community residents must do what they have done for generations, wait until the county holds its annual one-day hazardous waste collection event, or just keep the waste stored in sheds and garages throughout the county. Then there's a third possibility that gets Blanchfield and environmental protection advocates on edge--illegal dumping.
"We need to protect our water. It's a very valuable resource. What are we going to drink?" she asks.
Although Cashmere, Chelan and other towns have recycling centers, they are not authorized to collect hazardous waste, only the usual plastic, metal and aluminum cans, glass, cardboard and newspapers.
The county aids these towns' recycling efforts with some funding and advice, but the Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington Department of Ecology have stringent rules on what can and cannot be accepted. These rules stem from many decades of environmental disasters causing animal, human and environmental disease often leading to death and "brownfield" designations in extreme cases of prolonged and robust accidental spills and intentional dumping.
Blanchfield says even the annual event held at Pybus Market and other locations throughout the year costs too much money and will not be held in 2016 barring a financial miracle.
"It costs $75,000 per event," she said. "Last year we had three semi-trucks double-stacked filled with hazardous waste. We don't have the money to do one this year, but maybe in 2017. I am hoping county residents have patience."
Legislative budget reallocation is also what Blanchfield thinks is the cause for the lack of money. She cites water pollution issues in Puget Sound as taking the majority of the funding possibly due to that areas more powerful political clout.
Blanchfield sees the issue as a classic "chicken or the egg" dilemma as preventive measures ensuring the safety of drinking and recreational waters must be done as a proactive measure before illegal dumping happens.
Once illegal dumping occurs, millions of dollars are spent statewide to clean up the illegal sites if they are even discovered. That discovery can take decades.
"They pulled three transformers out of the Wenatchee River last summer," she said.
No one really knows when those transformers were dumped in the first place or by whom, according to Blanchfield. She eyes the facility as a wise investment.
"This is a high priority and people need it. We want to make sure this stuff doesn't get into our water. We have beautiful communities here and need to preserve the environment," she said.
Asked whether chambers or other organizations expressed solidarity with her plight, Blanchfield said with some exasperation, "They are too busy promoting festivals."
State Sen. Linda Evans Parlette said, "MTCA (Model Toxic Control Account) funds are down due to the price of oil being down. Funding for the MTCA accounts relies on revenue from the Hazardous Substances Tax (HST); this tax is a 0.7 percent on wholesale value of hazardous substances, which includes petroleum products. As the price of oil has declined over the last year, so, too has the HST revenue to the MTCA accounts."
Parlette, who is also the caucus chair for the Senate Majority Coalition went on to say, "Where Chelan County's mixed waste facility might have been funded under the $29.6 million Local Toxics Control Act for Coordinated Prevention Grants (CPG) requested by the agency and proposed by the Governor, the enacted budget provides $15 million state bonds for the CPGs; and the project may not receive funding."
If and when the project gets completed, Blanchfield says there will be no charge to county residents who are dropping off small quantities of waste. Eventually a fee will be charged to help the county pay for the costs of manning the center three days a week and disposing of the waste.
There will be a storage room in the center to keep the waste until it can be moved to a state certified final resting place or burn facility. Even after it is built, the center will not accept ammunition, biological waste or radioactive waste, according to Blanchfield.
Blanchfield, sounding frustrated with bureaucratic delays and budget shell games being played in Olympia, said, "There always seems to be enough money for fish habitat protection and to study PCB and phosphate pollution," but not enough on the prevention aspect of illegal hazardous waste disposal.
PCB is the acronym for Polychlorinated biphenyls and were widely used as fluids in electrical apparatus, such as power station transformers and cutting fluids for machining operations. Because of PCBs' environmental toxicity and classification as a persistent organic pollutant, PCB production was banned by the Congress in 1979.
Blanchfield says there is even DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) out in the county even though that common pesticide was banned in 1972. DDT is blamed for breast and other cancers, miscarriages and low birth weight, nervous system and liver damage among other health issues. Because of this area's huge fruit industry, after the ban, the chemical was supposedly stored away in sheds, warehouses and barns throughout the county or legally disposed of. Ironically, DDT is the chemical made famous by the 1962 Rachel Carson book Silent Spring, which brought attention to environmental pollution in the first place and help lead to the creation oftheEPA.
The county received $300,000 and matched 25 percent of that money from the state to make $400,000 total to cover a two year period.
"That may seem like a lot, but it isn't enough to run all of our programs and put the building up as well," said Blanchfield, who has 22 years of experience in the solid waste business.
As an example, the unincorporated town of Manson has a recycling center, but the county has had to install cameras there to crack down on the illegal dumping of hazardous waste.
Blanchfield said $10,000 has been spent on area recycling centers including the cameras for the Manson center placed there in the hopes of catching future perpetrators. She admits the area has "made huge strides" over the last 10-20 years in pollution mitigation, but says adamantly, "We need to get hazardous waste off the streets."
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|Title Annotation:||Hazardous waste|
|Publication:||Wenatchee Business Journal|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2016|
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