City-run facility now closed to unsupervised salvagers
The city’s metal pit, the portion of the landfill on Dump Road where scrap metal waste is buried, has long been a money pit for those willing to haul-out its treasure trove of recyclable – and often valuable - materials. Copper wire, stainless steel machine parts and regular old scrap iron could be had for the price of sweat, and for years a number of area residents have made a living or supplemented their incomes by salvaging metals others have thrown away and then reselling the materials to recyclers in Anchorage or sometimes even sending barges to Seattle off the floating dock.
Since last summer, the old open-door policy that allowed large-scale recycling of scrap metal from the city-owned landfill has been slowly slammed shut – and some recyclers like Kenneth Bottcher are hot under the collar.
“I just can’t stand to see the waste,” Bottcher said. “Our country is under enough financial distress.”
Bottcher says he has receipts for $13,000 he received for salvaged metals from the old Three Bears building, which is a welcome subsidy to his fixed income.
“That’s just from one building in town,” he said.
City officials are apologetic but firm in enforcing the policy, which it claims is necessary to keep the landfill in compliance with state and federal regulations.
City manager John Hozey said the city has included funding for a temporary position at the bailer for next year that could allow for a resumption in salvaging by the public. Options such as segregating metals is also being considered.
Lori Aldrich, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s solid waste contact for the City of Valdez, said ADEC has not forced the city to stop allowing the public into the pit for recycling purposes, but it is enforcing laws governing salvage operations at landfills.
“We’re not requiring them to shut down salvaging,” Aldrich said in a telephonic interview Tuesday morning. “They (the city) made the decision.”
The root of the problem lies in the fact that the former city policy that allowed the public to freely access the metal pit and remove recyclables or salvage usable goods at the landfill does not comply with state regulations, as the city does use the landfill for burying asbestos.
Among other requirements, salvagers must be supervised or remove recyclables from city property before the materials hit the landfill.
“It’s not possible for someone to salvage in that area without causing a hazard,” Aldrich said.
She also apologized for the situation and acknowledged the fact that numerous people rely on the recyclables for income.
“It’s like making us have a babysitter, which I don’t appreciate,” Bottcher said, likening the regulations to New York City’s ban on allowing consumers to by sodas larger than 16 ounces. “Unelected people are making us miserable.”
Bottcher said he is not trying to be a troublemaker, but he hates to see the waste that results from valuable recyclables getting buried in a landfill when it once contributed to the city’s economy.
“They should be packing that stuff up separately,” he said. “The city itself is just wasting on Biblical proportions.”