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Littering at rez trash stations concerns solid waste district

Oct 5, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

It's not just the 100-plus tons of garbage collected in a month at the Fort Washakie trash transfer station -- generating practically nothing in user fees -- that causes concern among solid waste officials.

Adding to the Fremont County Solid Waste Disposal District's workload is the abundant trash on the ground at the site, and other sites on the Wind River Indian Reservation, that requires numerous hours of cleanup.

"Right now we just don't have the staff and resources to keep up," county solid waste superintendent Andy Frey told the district's board members at their meeting Sept. 10. "I just want to stress we are really trying to keep up, but we just can't right now."

In a report provided to board members for their meeting, Frey noted the district spent 20 hours over three days cleaning the Fort Washakie site.

On Aug. 28, the district used two workers, one skidloader, a heavy-duty pickup and a roll-off truck over the course of eight hours to clean the site, with one driver making 10 trips to haul containers carrying 28.53 tons of trash.

Two days later, the district again used the same workforce over five hours to do the same type of cleanup at the site, that time hauling five containers with 8.65 tons of trash.

Earlier in the month, on Aug. 8, two workers with the same equipment cleaned the site for five hours, with one driver hauling six containers totaling more than 15 tons of waste.

At the Ethete site on Aug. 31, one worker spent four hours with a skidloader and a pickup, pushing trash out of driving areas and into a pile for collection at a later date.

"It has not been made clear why there is such a high volume of waste that is dumped outside of the ... containers when the containers are hauled steadily seven days per week," Frey stated in his report. "With the limited staff and open positions at the District it is difficult to find the extra manpower and equipment to send out to conduct site cleanups. ... To my knowledge, since coming on board with the District ten months ago, the only sites that have ever required this level of site cleanup are located on the (Wind River Indian Reservation)."

The four tribal-area sites that are open 24/7 without staffing have seen an increase in use since the district imposed new, limited operational hours in June.

The district is continuing to negotiate with tribal officials on a new management contract for the four reservation sites. The current contract for the sites is set to expire in mid-December.

Low revenue

The revenue collected at the unmanned stations amounts to pennies on the dollar when compared to the 4-cents-a-pound charged at landfill scales and at staffed transfer sites.

The Fort Washakie site in August generated $11.50 in user fees on 80 loads that carried a value of nearly $10,000. The 17 Mile Road site collected about $95 on nearly 115 tons of trash worth $9,175.

The Ethete transfer station raised about $57 on 82 tons of trash worth $6,571. The highest revenue of the four sites came at Crowheart with $120 on 26 tons valued at $2,080.

Some solid waste board members had harsh words about the activity at the reservation sites.

"It's just misusing things, and it's not right," board member Richard Rodgers said.

"Forty percent of the waste (is) on the ground and not in the bin," board member Jeff Hermansky said. "That's absurd, absolutely absurd."

Aside from the extra work, the issue poses a potential safety problem. Hermansky said he spotted a black bear "running out in the prairie" about a mile from the Fort Washakie site Sept. 3.

"It made me wonder if the bears are actually showing up at the transfer station," Hermansky said. "It was big, the biggest black bear I ever saw."

Travis Brockie, one of two board members on the reservation, blamed the problems at the sites on a lack of supervision.

"It all comes back to the fact that we don't have them staffed," Brockie said. "Without those being staffed, you can't really wag your finger at any one cause."

The new hours at the other trash stations contribute to an abundance of garbage at the reservation sites, Brockie said.

"I think just the basic knowledge of not staffing the facilities and closing the other ones has a cause and effect," he said.

He also attributed the trash on the ground to "monkey see, monkey do."

"There's no sign that says throw it in the bin," Brockie said.

Staffing the reservation sites with secured access will help control activity at the areas, some board members said.

"I don't know how we're going to fix that problem until we're able to staff that," board chairman Mike Adams said.

"You're right; we've got to man them," Rodgers agreed. "We want to treat the reservation just as fairly as we treat all the rest of them."