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Snohomish, Skagit County solid waste facilities may have to close temporarily due to excess garbage

There aren't enough available storage containers to transport garbage piling up at solid waste facilities, creating an environmental, health and safety hazard.

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — Garbage is piling up at solid waste facilities in Snohomish and Skagit counties due to challenges transporting it to regional waste centers via railway. 

Both counties have been experiencing issues finding enough storage containers to transport garbage from transfer stations. The mounting garbage is prompting health, safety and environmental concerns for customers and staff, according to Snohomish County.

The issue is also impacting other solid waste facilities throughout the Puget Sound area and in western Canada.

A looming railroad worker strike could exacerbate already existing issues transporting garbage from solid waste facilities, meaning they may have to close until excess refuse can be dealt with. 

Transportation challenges have impacted waste facilities in Snohomish and Skagit counties intermittently for the past eight months. In early January, solid waste transfer stations began having issues finding enough railway containers to transport waste, and garbage began to pile up. In May, Snohomish county had to close solid waste facilities for two days to remove excess garbage that built up due to a lack of available transport to landfills. 

In April, Snohomish County approved an emergency contract with Waste Management to help the solid waste division remove excess refuse at local transfer stations. The agreement expires in October. Garbage has been at a sustainable level through the summer months, but has recently begun to pile up again due to railway staffing challenges and intermodal container shortages. 

Both counties are working with Republic Services and Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) to find a solution to the issue. Snohomish County is also working with Waste Management, local solid waste haulers and federal officials, Snohomish County Public Works Director Kelly Snyder said. 

“We are experiencing significant delays in rail service by BNSF to the landfill, but safety will remain our number one priority throughout this emergency,” Snohomish County Solid Waste Director David Schonhard said. “We are working on every possible option to reduce the refuse at our facilities without shutdowns, but it is difficult. We appreciate our customers’ patience during this uncertainty.”

In the meantime, officials in both counties are urging residents to seek out ways to divert waste from landfills. Snohomish County suggests finding ways to recycle reusable items and donating household items, books or clothing that are reusable to thrift stores or selling them on community classifieds or online marketplaces rather than throw them away.

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