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Cash for trash — it's a big business

By JOE CENTERS • Updated Apr 22, 2019 at 4:53 PM

“Everybody wants this trash because there is value in trash” — those are the words of Pete Welch, Huron County director of operations, referring to the solid waste collected here.

Welch said the trash-removal dispute between Huron and Erie counties has a lot to do with money, service and compliance.


Trash removal

When Huron County closed its landfill 21 years ago, it needed a place to send its trash. That place was Erie County from 2008 until last spring, when a dispute between the two counties ended the deal.

Shortly after the agreement was terminated, Erie County officials filed a lawsuit against Huron County in Erie County Common Pleas Court.

For its solid waste disposal services, Huron County turned to Rumpke Waste, a private contractor based in Richland County.

Huron County officials said they are pleased with the service provided by Rumpke, but they are keeping quiet about the pending lawsuit involving Erie County. 

“I can’t comment on the lawsuit, but I can say Rumpke is doing a good job,” Commissioner Skip Wilde said, adding he hasn’t heard any complaints about the arrangement.

The closed landfill at 2415 Townline Road 151, Willard is now used as a trash transfer station.

Rumpke, which subcontracts R&J Trucking Inc., is responsible for picking up and hauling away solid waste taken to that facility, which is about 10 miles from Richland County.

“It’s a three-year contract with two, one-year renewals,” said Welch, referring to Rumpke. “We always put it out to bid and it’s always every five years.”

In previous years, Welch said Huron County “had several companies” handling its trash disposal, including Rumpke, Republic Waste and Erie County.

“Rumpke has been doing a great job. We have had no issues with them,” he added. “They give us service that keeps our facility in compliance with the Ohio EPA regulations — everything we need.”


Cash for trash

How much trash is collected in Huron County?

Last year, 41,001.34 tons of waste and 1,202 tons of recyclable material were received at the transfer station.

This year, the county commissioners have earmarked $2,624,098 for the transfer station’s budget. That money covers waste processing, transportation and disposal, recycling collection and processing, landfill post-closure activities. It also is used to pay the salaries of five full-time employees.

When trucks bring trash to the transfer station, they are charged a “gate rate” of $54 per ton.

Huron County then pays Rumpke $28 per ton to retrieve and dispose of that trash.

With its $26-per-ton balance, Huron County pays:

• $4.50 per ton to the solid waste district.

• $4.75 per ton for Ohio EPA fees.

• 25 cents per ton to Greenfield Township for host fees.

The remaining $16.50-per-ton balance is used for running the transfer station and monitoring the old landfill.

“As a whole, we negotiate with approximately 40,000 tons of waste. We are able to pay for transportation and disposal of waste, bonds, landfill closure costs and recycling activities. If I recall correctly, Huron County has not had a gate rate increase since we have been operating as a transfer station.”


Transfer station benefits

If the transfer station were to close, three full-time jobs could be eliminated, saving about $180,000 annually.

However, two employees would need to be retained to monitor and maintain the old landfill, Welch said.

The cost to maintain the landfill is $200,000 per year for nine more years. That pays for surface water monitoring, methane monitoring, leachate collection and treatment, erosion control, sediment basin maintenance, reseeding and other miscellaneous site maintenance.

The annual transfer station closure cost estimate is $20,000 for 30 years.

Without the transfer station, there would be less money in the county’s coffers to pay those costs. All of the haulers in Huron County would have to make their own deals with local landfills and Huron County would collect nothing, Welch said.

Welch cited two other reasons for not eliminating the transfer station.

First, the county still would have to collect and process recyclables because of the solid waste district plan. A third-party vendor would need to be paid to handle the recyclables.

Second, local waste haulers and residents could be held hostage by the local landfills, Welch said. Currently there are five disposal facilities within 30 miles of Huron County.

Rumpke’s gate rate at the Richland County facility is $65 per ton.

“In six months Rumpke could jack their rate up to $80,” he said. “By competitive bidding, we control our rates for our taxpayers for five more years. The county just signed a new three-year deal with Rumpke with two more option years.”

While Welch stressed he couldn’t talk about the lawsuit, he did say his main concern was for the taxpayers of Huron County.

“We control the rates for our taxpayers — at least for the next five years,” he said.

"Rest assured we are operating in the best interest of our taxpayers," Welch said. "Everybody wants this trash because there is value in trash. We control our own market pricing."

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