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The City Journals

Looks like Sandy’s curbside bulk waste pickup program will be going away after all

Sep 08, 2020 02:34PM ● By Justin Adams

Sandy’s curbside bulk waste pickup program is happening again this fall—and again next spring—but that will be it. (Courtesy of Sandy City)

By Justin Adams | [email protected]

Earlier this year, Sandy City announced that its popular curbside bulk waste pickup program would be no more. 

The decision came about because of concerns that the state would hold the city responsible for water contamination caused by hazardous materials being left in Sandy street gutters. Facing pressure from residents and some city council members who questioned the necessity of the change, the city administration reversed course and decided to run the curbside pickup program again this spring. 

But it looks like the concerns were well founded, as the city will be altering its bulk waste program after receiving a warning letter from the state’s Department of Environmental Quality.

The letter instructed Sandy City to, within 30 days, “respond with a timeline for cessation of the current practice of placing uncontainerized waste in the city’s MS4 (street gutters) for bulk waste collection. A compliance schedule will be established by the Director to avoid the need for formal enforcement of the MS4 permit.”

“If we’re not responsive to federal law, we put ourselves at risk,” said Public Utilities Director Tom Ward during an Aug. 11 city council meeting. 

The city will now have until the end of the year to formulate a new plan for bulk waste pickup and will then have until July 1, 2021 to implement a new program. The regular curbside pickup program scheduled for this fall and the spring of 2021 will still be taking place.

“While we’re working with the council to come up with a plan we’ll keep the existing system in place. That’s what’s funded, what’s expected,” Ward said.

Councilwoman Cyndi Sharkey suggested that perhaps the city “dealt a death blow” to the program by proactively asking permission from the state.

Ward responded by saying that the mandate is part of an ongoing conversation with the state.

“It would be inaccurate to say we went to the state and asked if we needed a violation,” he said. “We are the last city that has not made this change. It is noticeably different so...they had told us you can’t be doing that. You need to make a change.”

Councilwoman Marci Houseman emphasized the importance of establishing a community education campaign as part of the timeline in shifting to a new program. “We heard from so many people who were concerned about this change, it’s going to be really important to communicate the ‘why’ that is the stimulus for this,” she said.

Councilwoman Alison Stroud questioned whether the city might be able to continue a curbside pickup program exclusively for green waste, which public works director Michael Gladbach said could be a possibility.

“Those are things we can look at as we make a new program going forward. I see no reason why we can’t address green waste. I can’t make that promise but I think we should be able to,” he said.