Snohomish Health District offers tips for Arlington residents affected by garbage strike

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — If your garbage collection service is disrupted, you can take some simple measures to prevent or minimize trash-related problems.

“Keeping trash tightly bagged cuts down on odors and deters insects like flies,” said Gary Hanada, manager of the Solid Waste & Toxics section of the Snohomish Health District. “But even the strongest bag won’t prevent rodents from sampling curbside leftovers. You really need rodent-proof containers with tight-fitting lids for storing garbage.” Hanada also noted that cooler weather slows down the decomposition process.

“Accumulated trash can be offensive in a number of ways, but the actual risk to public health is very low,” Hanada said. “Piles of garbage do not send disease bacteria into the air. A person would need to consume bacteria to get sick, so be sure to wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after handling garbage and before touching your face, preparing food, or eating and drinking.”

For more sanitation tips and information about the complaint process, visit the Health District’s website, or call 425-339-5250 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For information about disposing of trash at county transfer stations and drop sites, call 425-388-3425, or visit Snohomish County's Solid Waste website.

Established in 1959, the Snohomish Health District works for a safer and healthier community through disease prevention, health promotion, and protection from environmental threats. Find more information about the Health District at at its website.

Q & A: Garbage sanitation during interrupted service

1. Why will garbage pick-up be interrupted? Garbage truck drivers represented by Teamsters Local 174 are employed by two garbage hauling companies, Waste Management and Allied Waste. Waste Management drivers are on strike. Allied Waste drivers settled their contract dispute and will not strike.

2. When will the strike happen? The strike began on Wednesday, April 21, 2010.

3. Will my garbage collection service be affected? A strike will affect nearly all the garbage collection routes in King County (except the City of Shoreline) and many in Snohomish County.

4. What should I do with my garbage? Garbage could be picked up on a different day or less frequently but can be managed. Use a spare garbage can with a tight-fitting lid for additional storage.

5. Should I leave my garbage cans on the curb until pick-up? Store your garbage can in an area where it’s unlikely to be tipped over, and bring it out for curbside collection close to the time your hauler indicates for pick-up. Waste Management customers should place their collection containers out on their regular collection day. If the garbage and yard waste is not picked up, customers are asked to leave the containers out for one additional day. If there is still no pick-up, remove the containers from the curb and then put them out again the following week.

6. Is this garbage strike creating a public health threat? Properly stored garbage does not pose any threat to peoples health. However, if it is not stored properly it can attract rats or other pests.

7. What can I do to get rid of my garbage during a strike? If you cannot safely store excess garbage on your property, you can take it to a transfer station. There is a charge to drop garbage at a transfer station, and there may be delays. Consider combining loads with neighbors. Do not take your garbage to the landfill; landfills in Snohomish County are closed.

8. Can I use my yard waste can for garbage? If yard waste pick-up is interrupted, do not mix food waste with yard waste. Bag garbage and put it in tight-lidded containers that rodents, birds, and other animals cannot easily access.

9. What should I do with my recyclables during the strike? We recommend that you store your recyclable materials on your property until the strike is resolved if your recycling is not picked up on your normal collection day. If you’ve filled the recycle can, store excess recyclables in other containers clearly marked “recyclables” until the strike is over.

10. What should I do with my yard waste during the strike? We recommend that you store yard waste in containers on your property until it is collected. Store excess yard waste in other containers marked “yard waste,” or in paper bags. Do not store yard waste in plastic bags.

11. I live in an apartment building and have nowhere to store garbage. What should I do? Contact your apartment manager. If the problem does not get resolved, consider combining loads with neighbors and take to a transfer station. Be advised that transfer stations accept garbage for a fee. Continue to separate recyclable materials from garbage and flatten all cardboard boxes to conserve space.

12. What are the priorities for garbage pick-up? Hospitals and nursing homes are the top priority, followed in order by food processors, restaurants, grocery stores, multi-family housing, and individual residences.

13. Which company picks up my garbage? Unincorporated Snohomish County and cities north of Everett are served by Waste Management. Allied Waste/Rabanco serves some of the cities in south and east Snohomish County. Check your garbage bill for customer service information.

14. Will I be charged for service I don’t receive during the strike? Contact your garbage service provider for information.

15. How do I find out when my garbage will be picked up? In Snohomish County, check your local paper or check Waste Management's website for current information about garbage pick-up schedules.

16. Will transfer stations be open during the strike? Yes. Transfer stations and drop boxes will remain open during normal operating hours. For Snohomish County transfer/drop box information, call 425-388-3425 or log onto the county's website.

17. There’s garbage all over my neighbor’s lawn or in vacant lots. What can I do? Register a complaint by calling the Snohomish Health District during the work week: 425-339-5250. Please provide an exact address of the property. Complaint forms are available here.

18. What should commercial establishments such as restaurants and grocery stores do in the event of delayed garbage pick-up? Contact your garbage hauler. Take steps to minimize garbage, such as separating recyclables from garbage. Transfer stations and drop boxes in Snohomish County are open during the strike.

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