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Snohomish County crews clear nearly 5,400 tons of garbage from transfer stations

Crews cleared more than 10 million pounds of backlogged garbage from Snohomish County facilities that had become a “health, safety and environmental issue.”

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash — All solid waste transfer stations in Snohomish County will return to regular hours this weekend after crews cleared nearly 5,400 tons of garbage from the facilities, averting a “health and safety emergency.”

Snohomish County Public Works announced last week that all transfer stations and dropboxes in the county would temporarily close for two full weekends beginning May 7 to clear a backlog of garbage at the facilities. Officials said the backlog of trash had become a “health, safety and environmental issue for customers and staff.”

The county announced Wednesday that crews were able to clear the trash backlog during the first weekend closure but said the “underlying issues which caused the original emergency persist.”

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Snohomish County Public Works crews were able to clear over 10 million pounds of garbage over the weekend from the Airport Road Recycling and Transfer Station in Everett and the Southwest Recycling and Transfer Station in Montlake Terrace.

Officials said last week that one of the garbage piles at the Everett facility contained nearly 7.4 million pounds of trash, while the smaller transfer station in Mountlake Terrace had another 3.5 million pounds of garbage.

“We are so very proud of our staff’s performance and determination," said Solid Waste Director David Schonhard. "They averted a second weekend of closures through sheer hard work. Safety is our number one concern, and they worked diligently to remedy what was becoming a very untenable situation.”

Snohomish County Public Works Director Kelly Snyder told KING 5 that temperatures deep inside the piles were hitting 130 degrees, posing a serious safety threat.

"It's getting compacted. It's getting heated up. That will lead us to have some fire issues," Snyder said during a May 4 interview. "We have to make sure we get this trash out and to the landfill as quickly as we can."

Snyder added the Everett facility was on a 24-hour fire watch as steam could be seen wafting from the top of the pile.

Officials said the backlog was due in part to hiring and supply chain issues with contracted waste removal service partners.

Continued backups at ports across the west coast are causing a shortage of shipping containers to haul garbage from transfer stations. The worker shortage at Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad is also slowing down the transport of those containers to landfills.

“We know the closure was an inconvenience, and we appreciate our customers patience last weekend,” Snyder said in a statement on May 11. “We stopped the immediate health and safety hazard, but there is much more work and coordination left to do with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, Republic Services, Waste Management and others to prevent additional closures later this spring and summer.”

The last time a facility in Snohomish County was closed due to maximum capacity was in 2008, according to public works.

Click here to learn more about facility locations and hours.

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