LITTLE VALLEY - A famous person once said: "Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one's thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world." Putting thoughts into action is exactly what the Cattaraugus County Legislature did when they enacted Local Law Number 4-1973 which established the Cattaraugus County Refuse System. The purpose of this law was to protect and promote the health, safety and welfare of Cattaraugus County residents by regulating the storage, collection and disposal of refuse; and by creating a countywide refuse disposal system.
"We provide more than just a place to safely dispose of your refuse materials," said Linda McAndrew, waste management coordinator. "We help Mother Nature keep the environment free of trash and discarded items."
The Refuse Division was initially established because a serious disposal problem began to occur within the county. The Legislature acted quickly to establish a plan to solve this problem and had engineering plans developed, recommended and approved by the whole legislative body. The Legislature also enacted local laws to control environmental abuses from improper refuse disposal and ensure the safe delivery and disposal of all refuse to approved facilities.
Salamanca Transfer Station is the hub of the Refuse Division where most of the County’s equipment is parked at night and spare containers are stored. It is a commercial station that accepts larger quantities of materials.
In 1991, Cattaraugus County Legislature approved Local Law 2-1990, ACT. NO. 293-1990, that established user fees for certain Refuse Division services, which was the beginning of their recycling program. The intent of this law was to encourage recycling through the institution of fees for non-recyclable materials which have been given to the county for disposal purposes. The intent of recycling was to reduce the amount of waste placed in landfills while protecting the environment from burning or improper disposal. County residents can bring their recyclables to any transfer station free of charge. Although the county receives money from certain outside contractors for these materials, the costs still outweigh the operational expenses for this service.
Eventually, the county closed both landfills due to capacity and future environmental compliance issues. However, it must continue to monitor and maintain them as mandated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Once both landfills were closed, the county had to truck its refuse to Chautauqua and Allegany counties for safe disposal.
Cattaraugus County's Refuse Division consists of eight transfer stations located throughout the county in the following communities: Allegany, Conewango, Dayton, Farwell, Five Points, Machias, Portville and Salamanca. Each transfer station accepts a variety of recyclable and non-recyclable items which include glass, cardboard, paper, metal, electronics, glass, furniture, tires, clothing, appliances, batteries, and brush. This division of Public Works accomplishes its collection and disposal of refuse using road tractors, recycling trucks, tankers, skid steers, trailers and transfer station containers. The value of this equipment is more than $1.6 million.
The division employs 12 full-time and 19 part-time individuals from transfer station operators to Commercial B Drivers. In 2013, the county processed 7,669 tons of municipal solid waste and 1,775 tons of recyclable materials processed through the transfer stations. This figure does not include yard waste materials collected at the stations to be composted.
The Refuse Division provides a multi-faceted service that the staff believes no other vendor/contractor would be able or willing to provide because of the expense. Not only does this service accept non-recycled materials at minimal costs ($5 per couch and $15 per refrigerator) and recyclable materials for free, it has also provided waste boxes at no cost to towns and villages during natural disasters.
This division also has a roadside cleanup program for local municipalities which allows free disposal of garbage that has been cleaned up along town, village and city roadways. In addition, Refuse also conducts two events on separate occasions that are designed to assist Cattaraugus County residents in safely disposing of their household hazardous waste and unwanted used or new tires. Both events are free-of-charge to county residents.
Over the years, the Refuse Division has had to raise its fees slightly to help offset expenses and its impact on the tax levy. These increases have been minimal in comparison to the services provided and the costs associated with them, division officials believe. Over the last 23 years, fees have increased by an average of $1.62 per year, they said.
"It's all about the dedicated men and women who work for Refuse," McAndrew said. "Our employees continue to find new revenue streams, and reduce expenses through improved processes and operational efficiencies. Their innovation and creativity helps to further improve our operations."
If you ask employees what makes Cattaraugus County's Refuse Division so unique, they will tell you one thing: "It's a one-stop shop for all your waste disposal needs."
Anyone can visit one of the eight transfer stations and safely dispose of their garbage and recyclables, along with any other items that need to be discarded properly. Those other items can include furniture, tires, metal, appliances, batteries, electronics, propane tanks, and even cut trees and brush.
Alfred and Linda Bailey have been coming to the Salamanca Transfer Station for over 10 years. "We cannot get curbside pick-up where we live," Linda said. "This makes it convenient and inexpensive, especially since we don't have a lot of garbage to dispose of."
Mike Williams, a contractor from the Buffalo area, reiterates the same sentiment: "Working at Allegany State Park, the transfer station is close and cost-effective for construction debris disposal."
As a one-stop shop, residents will save time, money and fuel whenever they use the county's Refuse Division.
"Over the years, we've added additional items that can be accepted and safely disposed of to help the environment and Cattaraugus County residents," McAndrew said.