County garbage rates dropping off

The fees Island County charges for dropping off garbage or pumping out sewage at its facilities near Coupeville is changing on July 31, but it’s not bad news for everyone.

Joantha Guthrie, the assistant director of Public Works, explained that the rate the average person pays to drop off household garbage, which the county calls “municipal solid waste,” will actually decrease significantly. Currently, every customer pays $115 per ton, plus a $7.24 base fee, with a minimum charge of $11. The base fee is used to fund the recycling and hazardous waste program.

The per-ton rate is increasing to $155, but the base fee is going away. The minimum charge is increasing to $13.25. A self-hauler with 200 pounds of garbage, for example, will pay $16 under the new system versus $21 under the current system.

Guthrie said the problem was that individuals who go to the transfer station to drop off garbage were paying the base fee each time, but franchise haulers would pick up garbage from many customers and only pay the fee once. The result was that self-haulers were disproportionately paying the costs of the recycling and hazardous waste programs.

Tipping fees for franchised haulers are increasing to $147 per ton, except the city of Oak Harbor’s rate will be $137 per ton. Guthrie explained that the city pays less because it has its own recycling program.

“Franchise haulers will now be paying more of their fair share,” Guthrie said.

Bill Oakes, Public Works director, explained in a press release that this is the first increase in the solid waste tip fee in 10 years and averages out to an increase of 2 percent a year.

The news is worse for those with septic tanks. The septage disposal rate is going from $0.155 per gallon to $0.279 per gallon.

Most of the cost increase is due to a spike in the cost of disposing of the treated biosolids.

The county can no longer find a landowner in the county willing to allow the Class B biosolids to be spread on fields, so they are being trucked to Whatcom County at a greatly increased expense. Guthrie said county officials are continuing to look for most cost-effective options.

Island County conducts a rate study every three years. This current study was conducted by Dr. Lisa Skumatz of Skumatz Economic Research Associates of Superior, Colorado and Orcas Island, according to a county press release.

The study went through a public process that included public hearings before the Solid Waste Advisory Committee and the county commissioners.

The commissioners postponed the increase for nearly three months due to the pandemic.

For residents that qualify, Island County has a low- income discount program that helps with disposal fees for household garbage.

For more information about this program contact Gynon Nash at 360-240-5592 or by email

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