MORGANTOWN — Over the past three years, the citizens of Monongalia County have provided an average of $57,750 annually to fund solid waste authority (SWA) activities — in Ohio, Harrison and Wetzel counties.
Meanwhile, the Monongalia County Solid Waste Authority has a current operating budget of $45,500, much of which comes through an annual $25,000 stipend from the state.
All told, the residents of West Virginia are providing as much as $1.5 million each year to the SWAs in 17 counties despite the fact that, as in Monongalia County’s case, their local SWA often doesn’t have the funds to support basic recycling and solid waste programs.
These numbers, complied by the Monongalia County SWA, are part of a push to inform the residents and elected officials in the other 38 counties that they are subsidizing trash and recycling efforts elsewhere through a 50 cents-per-ton tipping fee on solid waste.
The fees, provided for in state code (7-5-22), are then passed on to the SWA in the county where the landfill is located.
Monongalia County SWA Chairman Hayward Helmick said the fee was put in place when there were 50 landfills spread across the state. Now that there are 18, including two in Harrison County, the fee has become inequitable.
Helmick said the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) figures the tipping fee into the rates approved for trash haulers, meaning it’s ultimately passed on to their customers.
Pass-through facilities like transfer stations don’t count as the law states the fee is collected by the county of final disposal.
“Over four years, from 2014 to 2017, those 18 landfills received $5.5 million in tipping fees. We’ve tried to get the law changed to say the 50-cent tipping fee goes to the county of origin,” Helmick said. “If the citizens of Mon County or any other county are paying a fee to support the efforts of solid waste authorities, it should be one that can provide a service to them.”
The data compiled by Helmick and the Monongalia County SWA indicates at least 13 counties are likely losing $55,000 or more annually.
He explained that the 50-cent fee is in addition to $8.25 in various state assessments tied to every ton of trash dropped in the state.
Helmick said he hopes spreading this data — much of which was taken from the state’s solid waste management board’s website — will result in additional pressure on lawmakers as previous attempts at changing the law have died in committee.
“We want to show all these other counties that they’re in the same boat we are, subsidizing these other counties,” Helmick said. “We all pay it, but we don’t get it.”