The residents of Boundary County are fortunate enough to have an efficient, effective and affordable system for disposing of their solid waste.
Our county employees work seven days a week, 358 days a year to keep our landfill and recycling facilities up and running, but part of that responsibility also falls on the residents themselves. Consumers can help ensure that this system functions well into the future by being conscious of what they are throwing away and by recycling as much solid waste as possible.
Claine Skeen, who has been the superintendent at the Boundary County landfill for the past nine years, explains that the relatively small size of our county means we are eligible for a “small community exemption”, which allows the landfill to bury 20 tons of garbage a day.
“Once we reach that,” Skeen says, “then we can go a different avenue...we can ship the rest out.”
There is a toll for traveling down that road, however. According to Skeen, the county has to pay $75 a ton in order to ship garbage to the nearest facility in Bonner County.
So by burying as little garbage as possible, residents can save themselves a substantial amount of money, and they can ensure that there is room for future generations to get rid of their garbage in a responsible, sustainable manner.
“The biggest thing is, the less that goes into the hole, the better off the community is. It’s up to this little community to keep this open as long as they want,” Skeen says.
“This” is a 40-acre piece of property located just north of Bonners Ferry on Hillcrest Road, and it features an organized system of dumpsters and dumping areas with plenty of signs that explain what goes where.
The landfill accepts flattened corrugated cardboard and box board products, any and all paper products, aluminum cans, tin cans, used oil and antifreeze, glass, plastics #1-7, electronics and lead acid batteries. And the county accepts all these things at no extra charge. The $102 solid waste fee ($121.80 for residents outside the city limits of Bonners Ferry) that every county resident pays annually covers that service.
For someone who has lived in Boundary County their whole life, it is difficult to understand how reasonable this yearly fee is, as there are many counties throughout the Northwest that charge for every load that residents bring in.
And our county employees are doing everything they can to ensure that the service stays affordable.
Ken Wooten, who has worked with Skeen at the landfill for four years, says, “We do try to help defray the costs of getting rid of the recycling. We bale aluminum cans, for example, which gives us a little revenue to help defray the cost of getting rid of them. We’re doing what we can to help the public financially so their fees don’t go up.”
Wooten also echoes Skeen’s assertion that it is entirely up to the members of this community to keep the landfill open.
“As a county resident,” he explains, “every one of us owns a little piece of this operation. Equipment, land, cost of operation...everything. If the public could realize that they’re helping themselves by helping us get the stuff in the right place, separate it out as best as possible so we can get the most revenue off it that we can, they’re putting money back in their own pocket.”
There will always be people who refuse to follow Wooten’s advice, but the last thing Skeen wants to do, he says, is make the recycling program mandatory. He realizes that people don’t appreciate being told how to live, but he does admit that he has helped nudge them in the right direction over the years.
“We’ve come a long way from back when I first started. We used to have around 15 dump sites throughout the county and these were unmanned sites. So I pushed to eliminate that and go to monitored sites, where there’s personnel there, to eliminate someone dumping a washing machine, a dryer and a fridge and a stove in one container that goes to the garbage truck and gets buried.”
“We would have to replace a hopper every two or three years,” he continues. “And we haven’t had to replace a hopper in seven or eight years now. The community has come a long way to keep this going ahead, not backwards.”
Skeen also says that everyone in the community is invited to come out to the landfill to see what happens to their garbage after it leaves their driveway or the bed of their pickup. Because if there is one thing Skeen and his co-workers know for sure, it’s that it doesn’t just disappear.
“It’s always been an open door policy. We’ve got nothing to hide,” Skeen says. “And the public can always get more involved in the process. It’s your facility. Come up and use it.”