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Waste designation in Washington, Ramsey counties upsets haulers

The Washington/ Ramsey Recycling and Energy Center lies in Newport, just off Interstate 494. Katie Nelson / RiverTown Multimedia

Local sanitation companies are raising rates and seeking new locations to haul some waste by Jan. 1 in preparation of new county waste guidelines.

The Ramsey/Washington County Recycling and Energy Center in Newport approved in September new waste designation protocols that will begin in the new year. The guidelines require waste haulers to bring all waste collected in Washington and Ramsey counties to the center, but also require all waste from outside counties go elsewhere.

The Recycling and Energy Board's intentions are to get all waste from Washington and Ramsey counties to be processed rather than landfilled, while also not subsidizing other counties' waste.

Haulers now have to find a place to bring the waste collected out of county, because in Dakota County there are currently are no processing facilities, private or county-run. There are two privately-owned landfills.

"The county is not looking at getting into the processing business," said Georg Fischer, Dakota County Environmental Resources Director.

There may be a privately-owned facility constructed sometime in the next decade, but there are currently no officials plans.

Washington County waste hauling companies including Tennis Sanitation and Highland Sanitation have been hard-pressed to find find a solution.

"It's going to result in a lot of inefficiencies in Dakota County and higher rates for everyone," Bobby Stewart of Highland Sanitation said. "It's not easy to go to your customer and say, 'You're going to have a 10 percent increase next year.'"

Highland, which hauls for customers in Washington, Ramsey, Dakota and Goodhue counties, will bring it to landfills that are farther away than the Recycling and Energy Center for now.

"The thing that's unfortunate, is we've never brought our waste to a landfill ... (but) there's not a lot of other options," Stewart said.

Over half of their customers are from Dakota County, he said.

Tennis Sanitation — based in St. Paul Park — is also struggling to find a place for the Dakota County waste they collect.

They proposed adding a waste transfer station — a site where they can dump the trash and load it onto a larger truck for transport to another facility — to their Fourth Street location. The city council opted to table discussions on it at the Dec. 18 meeting to learn more.

"We're trying to do the best we can to find another option .... It has nothing to do with the way we run business," owner Willie Tennis said at a planning commision meeting Dec. 11. "It's all the way the counties are trying to run our business."

Tennis is still looking for a solution, but thinking they may have to use a landfill. He said they haven't landfilled their waste since 1987, when they starting bringing everything to the Recycling and Energy Center.

"It was very handy for us to dump everything right there in Newport, and knowing it was all processed," Tennis said.

The Recycling and Energy Board currently charge haulers $58 per ton of waste brought in, with a rebate. With a $10 to $12 rebate, the tipping fees will be $65 in 2018 and $69 in 2019. The board is considering terminating the rebate sometime after 2019.

Out of county waste will no longer be accepted unless it is public entity waste — waste collected from a group such as a city, school district or state. Tennis recently signed a three-year hauling contract with the city of Hastings. The new rate is $94 per ton, and it will only be allowed in 2018.

Both Tennis and Stewart said due to the increasing rates and the displacement of Dakota County waste, they will have to raise prices for customers.

"It really negatively impacts us," Stewart said. "Until Dakota County comes up with something, it will be higher rates."

Tennis said due to increased mileage to take waste out-of-county, their drivers will have to work longer hours and use more fuel.

"The decisions our companies are making are not really ours, they're decisions we're having to make to accommodate the decisions made by the county," he said.

Tennis transfer

Tennis Sanitation has proposed a solid waste transfer station at their 720 Fourth St. site in response to new Washington County regulations, much to the concern of many neighbors.

Tennis Sanitation, owner Willie Tennis said, hauls for customers in Hastings, South St. Paul and Inver Grove Heights whose waste they no have no immediate placement for.

"We want to continue our business and do the best job we can, so getting the transfer station is the only answer we have at this point in time," Tennis said at a Dec. 11 planning commission meeting.

He estimates they would need about four or five extra trucks arriving at the transfer facility each day and one or two trucks departing.

The station proposes about 500 cubic tons of waste — about 250 tons — in and out per day.

The current route Tennis trucks take — and any increased trucks would take — is from Fifth Street, onto Broadway Avenue, to Summit Avenue and onto Highway 61.

Several of the business owners at 445 Broadway Ave. opposed the transfer station for various reasons — including the smell and waste escaping from the trucks — but the largest was the increased truck traffic.

Tennis states that they intend to have 8-10 trucks coming in per day and 1-2 transfer trailers coming out. This is based on the 500 cubic yards per week calculation.

The planning commission recommended that they limit the site to 500 cubic yards per week, that no direct waste activity is done outside, that there is no overnight storage of waste and that the trucks take specific routes.

Tennis said there are about 20 trucks coming to the site per day.

City council members, who tabled the vote until January, are mostly debating whether they will allow heavy industrial activities in an area currently zoned for light industrial.

"I do not believe this is good public policy," Mayor Sandi Dingle said. "... I do believe it's a higher industrial use and not a good use for this district."