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Snow leaves mounds of trash behind

The snowy weather South Kitsap had to cope with in the last two weeks is still causing havoc for a handful of rural residents.

Although the worst of the weather only hit on two days — Dec. 31 and Jan. 7 — the storms hit exactly seven days apart, both on Wednesdays.

For Burley resident Wendy Boyd and many of her neighbors, this coincidence has resulted in a stinky, aggravating buildup of household trash.

Waste Management garbage trucks run on a weekly schedule in Kitsap County.

Although different parts of the county have different pickup days, the trucks only come once a week for any one household. For Boyd and her neighbors, their pickup day is Wednesday.

And they haven’t seen a garbage truck since December.

“Right now, I’ve got three bags (of trash) in the kitchen,” Boyd said. “I’ve got a couple bags in the basement.”

She said she’s been calling everyone she can think of to try and get Waste Management to make a special trip to her Terrace Lane home, but has been turned down every time.

Boyd said a Waste Management representative assured her the trash crews would not penalize her for having extra trash bags when they finally arrived and even offered to credit her the price of extra trash cans to hold the lot. Boyd said she doesn’t need extra cans — she just needs to get the trash out of her house.

“What happens if it snows again and I’ve got a month’s worth?” she asked. “I can be understanding to a point, but they need to make an effort when it’s been two weeks, and they’re not.”

Boyd said some of the other residents have resorted to burning their trash, compounding the neighborhood’s problems. She said the haze and stink from the smoldering garbage got so bad last week, her kids could play outside anymore. At this point, Boyd sees her only possible solution is to haul her trash to the landfill herself and avoiding that, she said, was why she contracted for garbage service in the first place.

Gretchen Olson, the county’s solid waste division manager, said Boyd is not alone in her frustration. Since the first snowfall, Olson said she has been getting a handful of phone calls each day from households all over the county with similar problems.

According to rules laid down by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission , Olson said, no garbage service provider is required to make runs during weather severe enough to pose a threat to the company’s vehicles or employees. In addition, missed runs may be made up on the next regularly scheduled day of service – the garbage company in under no obligation to make special runs.

“The county can’t do a thing about it,” said Olson, who said she’s been referring all complaints to the UTC. “We’ve got 27,000 county residents in the exact same situation.”

Even if Waste Management did want to make extra runs, Olson explained, there’s no equipment available to do it with. She said all the trucks are in service during the week and, thanks to residual storm-related problems, garbage crews are already racking up significant overtime just to complete their scheduled routes.

“What they can usually do in an eight-hour shift is taking them 12 hours to do,” Olson said.

Despite the problems currently being borne by Boyd and others in her situation, Olson said she believes the system works. Washington state is not known for persistent bad weather and, most of the time, Waste Management has no problems completing its rounds on time. For the record, Olson said Boyd’s feared-for month of stalled service did happen once – about 20 years ago.

However, she continued, one catastrophe of coincidences – or even two of them – does not a pattern make.

“If you look at historically how many events we’ve had, there haven’t been that many where things were shut down for weeks on end,” Olson said.

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