Dump stops taking city ditch spoils

On-island or off?

The Bainbridge City Council tonight will consider whether a citizen panel formed to look at off-island options for disposing of roadside waste materials should consider sites closer to home.

The question has become somewhat more urgent in recent days because the most readily available off-island alternative – the Olympic View Sanitary Landfill in Port Orchard – stopped accepting new material last Friday.

That closure not only limits the range of future alternatives, but complicates the city’s ongoing efforts to clean up the Head of the Bay site where the city had been storing roadside wastes.

“We’re about halfway through the cleanup operation,” said Lance Newkirk, operations and maintenance chief for the city’s Public Works Department. “We have to evaluate other options, but cost is an issue.”

The city has used property it owns on the unpaved extension of Eagle Harbor Drive at the Head of the Bay to “temporarily” store dirt cleaned out of roadside ditches and taken from road shoulders – material that can become contaminated with petroleum residues and traces of heavy metal from vehicle operation.

The disposal operation has been widely known as the “decant” facility, a name derived from placement of material vacuumed from storm drains into trays, where water separates out from solid material.

Prompted by a complaint from an Eagle Harbor Drive resident, the Kitsap County Health District determined that the contaminated roadside material posed an unacceptable threat to the city’s wellheads, which are located down-gradient from the deposited material.

Although the city said it was only storing the material, the health district said that storage has been going on for as long as seven years.

That, health district officials said, amounts to disposal, not merely storage.

The district ordered a cleanup as soon as possible, and work has been ongoing since then.

“We have moved about 2,800 tons,” Newkirk said, “and are concentrating on the older material.”

Because the city was aware that the Port Orchard landfill would stop accepting material last Friday, it hired outside truckers to work with crews to move as much as possible through last week.

“Now we have to pause while we look at our alternatives,” Newkirk said.

He said there are disposal facilities in Tacoma, Seattle and Port Angeles, but all involve increased costs. There is a transfer facility in Kitsap County, where the roadside material is eventually loaded on trains to Oregon, “but that costs two-and-a-half times what the landfill cost,” Newkirk said.

The operations to date have cost roughly $60,000, Newkirk said, with about $15,000 still available.

“At that point, we would have to ask the council for an additional appropriation,” he said.

And the city will still need to find a new site for roadside wastes.

The citizen task force originally recommended that the Head of the Bay site be modified to accommodate all of the necessary operations, a recommendation consistent with its directive to consider options that did not require a new on-island site.

But after hearing from the health district that permitting the site would be time-consuming at best and problematic at worst, the committee recommended that the site be dropped.

It also recommended against off-island alternatives because of costs and lack of control, as exemplified by the closure of the Port Orchard landfill.

Instead, in a report that will be presented to the council tonight, the committee asked that it be allowed to consider on-island alternatives, using the expertise it has developed in its previous work.

The committee said, though, that it would not consider either a site on lower Weaver Road or a site on city property at the corner of Sportsman Club and New Brooklyn roads – sites that have been proposed in the past and withdrawn after neighborhood opposition.

Newkirk hopes the council approves either the committee’s suggestion or some other site-selection method soon.

“Disposing of the road material is one of the day-to-day functions of our city,” he said. “The health department will work with us, but we need to keep moving and demonstrate that we are acting in good faith to deal with those core functions.”

Although the Vincent Road transfer facility has been mentioned as a possible site, Newkirk did not want to suggest any one possibility, and said it was important that the committee look at all options.

“In the past, when we have looked at a particular site, people have argued that another site would be better,” he said. “Rather than have them picked off one by one, we need to make sure that the universe of sites is comprehensive.”

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