Concern over fire danger regarding the size of the green waste (vegetation) pile at the Idyllwild Transfer Station prompted Mike Esnard, president of the Mountain Communities Fires Safe Council Board of Directors, to contact Waste Management Inc., the company the county contracts to manage the station.

Said Esnard in his letter to Sharon Davis at WMI, “We are very concerned that its enormous size now poses a fire threat to the community. Given its location, an ignited pile would easily spread into Idyllwild.” Esnard lauded local property owners’ efforts in clearing their properties as a big success for the community’s fire prevention efforts.

But he acknowledged that until recently, weekly buildup of new deposited waste has replaced what has been cleared leaving the problem one of mounting concern. The issue is complicated since other players are the ones actually responsible for trucking out the green waste. WMI subcontracted with Ecology Trucking for transport of green waste and until the first part of June, according to Kernkamp, they had been making only one trip per week.

Local contractor Jim Daniels said he felt frustrated by WMI’s management of the station and how he sees agreements that affect local haulers being changed without notice. “They’re not trucking waste off the Hill as they’re supposed to,” he said. “Everyone [local abatement haulers] have priced out their jobs and are now being told that we have to get a permit in Riverside and haul waste [of large truck bed sizes] to the chipper,” he said. Daniels said the permit costs $450. He said the buildup of green waste at the station is exacerbated by the fact that WMI has no scale at the transfer site. “Waste Management just does not want to deal with the problem because it is not a moneymaker for them,” he said.

“My understanding is more trucks have been added and that they [WMI and Ecology] have been moving quite a lot, especially on the days the station is closed to the public,” said Hans Kernkamp, general manager and chief engineer at the county’s Waste Management Department, the department that supervises WMI.

In a June 9 email to Kernkamp from Davis, she also acknowledged the buildup prior to the addition of more hauling runs. “From Thursday, June 5, through Saturday, June 7, we hauled approximately 74 tons from Idyllwild,” she noted. “Over the weekend, we got back basically all we hauled out so [it] seems like we have not made any progress. Ecology had trucking issues on Friday and Saturday so they were not able to make as many trips as planned. Seems Tuesday and Wednesday will be the only days we will make any head-way on that pile.”

Kernkamp is in the position of overall responsibility but not in direct charge of execution, such as clearing the green waste pile. He said he would be speaking with representatives from the County Department of Environmental Health this week who have regulatory responsibility over any potentially hazardous environmental conditions caused by businesses within the county. “I’m not sure this is one on their radar yet,” said Kernkamp and noted he would bring the issue to their attention. “They [Environmental Health] inspect to see that state and county regulations are being followed. I don’t know if in their [WMI] permit, there is a size limit to the pile.”

WMD Director Kernkamp said he would obtain recent hauling tickets and information regarding Ecology Trucking’s removals for the last two weeks, document how much of the pile remains as a result, and update the Town Crier with that information.