Government and Sustainability

Kent to act on proposed hauler fees

The revenue will be used to continue maintenance and mitigation costs of landfills.

May 29, 2015
| By Pete Daly |
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A proposed surcharge on trash pickup that was opposed by some waste haulers last year has resurfaced in a revised form and will be headed soon to the Kent County Board of Commissioners for action.

The proposed Solid Waste Management Ordinance submitted by the county Department of Public Works last week spells out waste-hauling surcharges calculated to bring in $1.45 million annually for the “legacy costs” of maintaining old landfills in the county and mitigating continuing groundwater pollution at some of them.

Since the Kentwood and Sparta public landfills were closed in 1976 and 1977, respectively, the county Department of Public Works has spent $31.4 million on remediation of pollution and “perpetual care” costs.

In the early 1990s, Kent County estimated it would spend $5.7 million to mitigate pollution and monitor it at the former Kentwood landfill for 30 years after it was closed.

However, total costs to correct all problems encountered there are already $17.7 million to date.

If it passes as now written, the ordinance takes effect Jan. 1, 2016, and will require licensed waste haulers to add a charge to their residential customers’ bills equivalent to $1.68 per year.

The county will leave it to the haulers to decide if they want to collect it on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis, but the funds must be turned over to the county.

The haulers are also required to designate the charge on the customer’s bill as the “Kent County Solid Waste Surcharge” or “County Surcharge.”

At the disposal facilities, the haulers will pay a charge equal to $1.68 per ton for dumping “institutional” trash — “institutional” meaning any location other than individual homes.

Commercially generated trash will be a major component of “institutional.”

The plan unveiled last fall for the ordinance and fees would have set the annual residential cost at $3, but now the ordinance will cover all trash collected in Kent County, not just trash hauled to county facilities.

Only about half of all waste generated in the county is managed by the county, and some goes to commercial landfills outside the county.

DPW officials said last week that by spreading legacy funding over all solid waste generated in Kent County, the amount charged to homeowners could be lowered from $3 to $1.68 and still generate the same amount of revenue.

Also beginning in January, all waste haulers and their vehicles will be licensed by the county, with the fee for the licenses yet to be determined by the county board.

Insurance will also be required by the county.

Kent County Department of Public Works Director Darwin Baas said the ordinance includes a “true-up” procedure to protect waste haulers. Haulers with adequate documentation can request a refund from per-ton payments or direct payments it makes to the county, if a customer fails to pay all or a portion of the surcharge.

The county may then opt to collect the surcharge directly from the customer.

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