A small change in Idaho Department of Environmental Quality policy will make a big change in how solid waste service providers and local governments across the region handle certain kinds of trash. While facilities such as Walco of Grangeville, Latah Sanitation of Moscow and Simmons Sanitation of Kamiah are abiding by local policy, DEQ is telling them – and the counties that rely on their services – to send certain kinds of waste out of the area.
“DEQ is pushing these federal guidelines about what is considered household waste,” Idaho County Commissioner Skip Brandt said in the wake of a June 23 Region II Solid Waste Advisory Committee (RSWAC) meeting in Lewiston. “They’re nitpicking, and basically stating that grass clippings and anything from a residential house is going to be considered household waste and will have to be taken to a Tier I landfill. All this stuff that Walco and Simmons are currently able to put in their landfills, that have been taking this stuff forever, soon will not be able to. They’re not going to enforce it right away, but the writing is on the wall and they will be enforcing it.”
The guidance, which DEQ has yet to finalize, is rooted in federal rules – 40 CFR Part 257, online at ecfr.gov – as well as state law. Under the new guidance – which the state has long been enforcing in southern Idaho – local service providers will have to start treating furniture, mattresses, clothing, rugs, drapes and such the same way they treat other household waste.
Brandt said the same items, if they came from commercial facilities, would still be considered acceptable at local landfills.
“The carpet that they’re concerned about contaminating groundwater, if it comes out of a hospital, that’s alright,” he said. “Or that plywood desk in a newspaper office – they could dump that in the local landfill.”
But under the new guidelines, if the carpet or desk came out of a home, it would be classified the same as kitchen waste, which Brandt said really ought to go to advanced landfills.
North Central Idaho’s geography, being isolated, puts the region at disadvantages – and the RSWAC group of local governments and private solid waste service providers has long worked with the state Public Health department’s North Central District to set workable policy.
The DEQ guidance – which has been in the works since 2014 – would overrule the local policy, but it wouldn’t be enforceable. For Idaho County, enforcement would mean paying more locally to haul more household waste to Missoula, Mont. Presently, items such as furniture are considered construction and demolition (C&D) waste under the local policy, meaning furniture can be disposed of at the Simmons or Walco facilities, rather than trucked hundreds of miles along U.S. Highway 12.
Meanwhile, Idaho County and neighbors Valley, Adams, Clearwater and Lewis are still in the early stages of trying to start up a $1.5 million regional landfill to be located approximately eight miles southwest of Council, which would serve as an alternative to hauling household waste to Missoula. In May, Brandt told the Free Press that in order for the concept facility to pencil out, the partner counties would likely need to haul C&D waste there.