Options for dealing with aging landfill presented to council

King County is developing an update to its solid waste plan which will guide the department through 2040.

Several key issues need to be addressed in the current update, including what to do about the county’s aging landfill, increasing recycling rates and possibly siting a new transfer station.

Washington state law requires each county to update their comprehensive solid waste plan regularly and the last update to King County’s came in 2013, when an interlocal agreement between the county and cities was agreed to through 2040.

The economic recession beginning in 2007 led to a decline in solid waste generated in the county, but that has changed in recent years.

On average, each resident throws away 15 pounds of garbage a week.

Three key policy proposals are being examined by the county, which is asking for input from residents until March 8.

These proposals were also presented to the Redmond City Council during a study session on Feb. 27.

The first was a goal set by the county to generate “zero waste” by 2030 with an interim goal of 70 percent of all waste recycled. The current waste diversion rate is 52 percent.

Steps to accomplish this goal will include waste prevention and recycling education efforts as well as updating the building code to minimize waste.

Redmond Mayor John Marchione said in a letter draft that he supports this measure.

The Houghton Transfer Station in Kirkland has been marked for closure due to not meeting current service requirements like having a trash compactor.

The station was identified for replacement in a 2007 plan update and three options exist moving forward.

The first is to keep the station operating as is with its deficits.

The second is replacing the station that would include closing it and finding a different location for a new transfer station in Kirkland, Redmond, Bothell or Woodinville.

In order to do this, an advisory committee of residents and city and business representatives would have to be convened.

Finally, the station could remain open for certain lower-intensity services while commercial waste operations could be directed to other stations.

Marchione supported the creation of a committee of cities to figure out which option would work best.

The third issue that will be addressed in this comprehensive plan update is the lack of capacity at the Cedar Hills landfill.

It was projected to reach capacity by 2012, but due to more efficient practices and additions to the landfill, this deadline was pushed back.

There are three options for dealing with the landfill.

These include keeping the landfill open and further developing it to increase capacity through 2040.

This option comes with a $241 million capital cost and a $20 million annual operations price tag.

The second option would be to ship county garbage to a landfill outside the county by freight train.

Some $4.6 million would be required in capital costs with an annual operating cost of $43 million.

By far the most expensive option would be to create a burn facility that would reduce waste volume by 90 percent, supply electricity locally and create significant pollution by way of greenhouse gas emissions.

Creating this burn facility would cost $1.1 billion and cost $41 million every year to operate, which would be offset by up to $41 million in electricity sales revenue.

Marchione supported the first option to expand the current landfill through 2040 while exploring other options.