Ever since Loudoun Composting closed its yard waste facility last June, the Town of Herndon has been on the look for a new regional partner to process its organic materials.
At a Herndon Town Council work session on Feb. 21, the town formalized an agreement with Prince William County to sent its waste to a compost facility in Manassas.
The facility has been owned by Prince William since 1994, and the composting portion is operated by a private company through a contract with the county.
The Prince William County Board of Supervisors approved the agreement on Jan. 17. The county has similar agreements with Arlington and Fairfax counties.
“This is to essentially make it a more formal agreement,” said Tammy Chastain, deputy director of Herndon’s public works department.
Chastain said the town has been shifting its organic materials since July. The Loudoun facility closed because the property it was located on was sold.
The cost of the service will depend on the amount of yard waste picked up from residents, Chastain said. She noted that the cost of the Prince William facility is comparable to the cost of the Loudoun facility.
“Even though we go a little bit further, I think the cost is pretty darn close,” Chastain said.
(Updated at 2:05 p.m. on 2/28/2023) The contents of a truck that appears to have been carrying trash to the I-66 Transfer Station (4618 West Ox Road) included a dead body, police say.
The Fairfax County Police Department has opened an investigation into the body, which it says was found this afternoon “in a trailer used for transporting trash” in the 4600 block of West Ox Road.
A preliminary investigation found “no significant trauma” on the body, an FCPD spokesperson said.
“More details will be provided as the investigation continues,” police said.
Detectives from our Major Crimes Bureau are conducting a death investigation in the 4600 blk of West Ox Rd after a body was found in a trailer used for transporting trash. More details will be provided as the investigation continues. #FCPD pic.twitter.com/YKe87jr0uZ
— Fairfax County Police (@FairfaxCountyPD) February 27, 2023
Residents served by Haulin’ Trash, the now-bankrupt private trash collector, will be allowed to use Fairfax County’s waste disposal facilities at no charge for the next month.
The Board of Supervisors moved yesterday to suspend charges for affected individuals who drop off their household trash and recycling at the county’s I-66 Transfer Station (4618 West Ox Road) and I-95 Landfill Complex (9850 Furnace Road).
“I think everyone was caught off guard completely by this, and it has been difficult for many of the people affected to get a new contract in place,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said when introducing the board matter at yesterday’s meeting.
The facilities open at 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, though there are scheduled closures on Jan. 1 for New Year’s Day.
While most recyclable materials are accepted for free, they have fees for trash based on the type of material, volume, weight and number of bags used.
The fee waivers went into effect today and will continue until Jan. 1. A past bill from Haulin’ Trash must be presented for verification by on-site staff to get the discount.
Started in 2017 and based in Leesburg, Haulin’ Trash announced last week that it would permanently close on Dec. 1 after financial and staffing challenges reportedly resulted in lagging and missed collections.
Shared just hours following an earlier email that suggested the company was still trying to find a solution to its service issues, the news forced approximately 3,000 county residents to find a new hauler with essentially no warning.
The fee suspension is intended to hold over residents as they search for a new provider. Many community members had reported overflowing trash cans after Haulin’ Trash missed multiple pickups, the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services said.
A list of haulers licensed to operate in Fairfax County can be found on the DPWES website. Questions and complaints can be submitted to the county’s Consumer Affairs Branch by phone at 703-222-8435 or online.
“We are encouraging customers affected by this to sign up as quickly as possible with an alternate carrier in the area,” McKay said.
With trash collection issues proving to be an ongoing headache, county officials have started considering alternative approaches to providing services, which is handled by private companies for 90% of residents.
The Board of Supervisors adopted a legislative program for the General Assembly’s 2023 session calling for the state to give localities “additional authority to manage solid waste collection” and remove “onerous requirements” that limit the county’s ability to develop a different model.
Photo via Google Maps
(Updated at 1:25 p.m.) The service and staffing challenges plaguing trash collectors throughout Fairfax County have prompted one company to call it quits, leaving thousands of residents in limbo with little notice.
Haulin’ Trash LLC has permanently shuttered, informing customers by email Wednesday (Nov. 30) that it will cease operations effective yesterday.
“We have faced many challenges over the past several weeks that we simply cannot overcome. This decision has not only affected our customers but it has affected dozens of employees and their families,” owner Bobby Frazier said in the message, apologizing for the resulting inconvenience.
Frazier said that the “keys to the business” will transferred to a court-appointed trustee “over the next couple of weeks,” who will be in charge of giving out credits or refunds.
Started in 2017, the Leesburg-based company served around 3,000 customers in the county, including homeowners’ associations and 1,800 single-household customers, the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) says.
The county has over a dozen private, licensed haulers that serve about 90% of residents and businesses. The rest get waste collection services from the county government.
DPWES says its Solid Waste Management Program contacted Haulin’ Trash on Tuesday (Nov. 29) after receiving “a surge in resident complaints about missed collections.” The company told staff that it was “experiencing operational and financial difficulties,” but said it was looking at options to address the reported concerns, according to the county.
A day later, though, Haulin’ Trash notified the county that it had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and would close on Dec. 1. An email sent to customers on Nov. 30 said plans to “catch up” on missed collections proved impossible because it had only four trucks — half its fleet – available.
Shared with FFXnow today, the email has a timestamp of 4:29 p.m. The announcement that Haulin’ was permanently closing went out at 9:39 p.m. that same day. The company didn’t return a request for comment.
While sudden, the closure doesn’t appear to be a total surprise to Haulin’ customers. One told FFXnow that the company’s service “had degraded to almost nothing this month,” while an Oakton resident said it missed three consecutive pickups in their neighborhood in November.
“The delayed/missed pickups have caused trash/recycle bin(s) and yard waste bag(s) sit on the curbside/street for weeks,” the resident wrote in an anonymous tip. “As a result, the neighbor looks disorganized with unpleasant smell, trashes littering on street, in storm drainage, on lawn(s).” Read More
Fairfax County will ask the Virginia General Assembly for more authority to fix its trash troubles, as complaints about American Disposal Services continue.
At Tuesday’s (Oct. 18) legislative committee meeting, the Board of Supervisors once again dove into the persisting problems with trash pickups by the private, contracted collectors that serve about 90% of residents and almost all businesses in the county.
Throughout this year, the county has received many complaints about the contractors’ performance, especially American Disposal, which cut back on pickups this spring.
In late September, the county signed a consent agreement with the company. According to Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik, the agreement obligates American Disposal to hire more drivers and customer service personnel, increase salaries, and credit customers for missed pick-ups, starting Jan. 1. It also imposes a $5,000 fine on the company.
Per Palchik’s newsletter, the contractor has until Dec. 31 to “make the necessary schedule modifications” and maintain adequate staff and equipment to resolve its service issues. Customers must be notified of any changes to their collections by that date as well.
FFXnow was unable to reach American Disposal for comment.
Meanwhile, the county is considering lobbying state lawmakers to ease restrictions on its ability to impose its own trash pick-up model.
“This surge in complaints, which account for approximately 86 percent of all waste collection complaints received by the County, has led to consideration of alternative solid waste management system models, and whether such alternatives could improve the quality and/or reliability of service delivery,” a staff report says.
One alternative would be to implement a franchising model, which Virginia law currently allows localities to do.
“Under a franchising model, the County would likely be divided into several different zones, and each zone would be served by a single collection company. Customers would pay for service based on County-negotiated rates,” the staff report notes.
However, the state code complicates the county’s ability to enact this model. Notably, if franchising ends up prohibiting a currently contracted company from continuing to service the county, the county either has to essentially wait five years to start franchising or pay the affected company a year’s worth of gross receipts.
“The code makes [franchising], quite frankly, impossible. It might as well be banned outright,” Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said Tuesday. “The five-year delayed implementation date, obviously, prevents anyone from doing it. That’s why no one in the Commonwealth has done it, to my knowledge.”
The code does have some exceptions, mainly for if a trash pick-up company is so inadequate at its job that it’s “threatening public health and safety” and is breaching the contract.
McKay asked the county legal team what would constitute a breach of contract, noting that an answer would probably have to come at a later date.
“Where do we think the line is where [it’s] threatening public health and safety?” McKay said. “[Are] we potentially getting near reaching that? If we have multiple consent agreements and trash laying out and it’s a public…health issue and they are obviously not fulfilling the agreement. It’s probably a pretty high bar, but we should know that if these problems persist.”
Per staff recommendation, the committee voted in support of asking the General Assembly to provide “flexibility” for a franchise model. This could mean wiping out or altering these “onerous requirements” to make it easier for the county to franchise trash service. Read More
The Town of Herndon hasn’t missed a single trash day during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite grappling with the same labor and supply issues as other jurisdictions.
Town Manager Bill Ashton admitted to the town council on Sept. 27 that he typically wouldn’t highlight uninterrupted trash service “as a badge of honor” in the town’s annual report for fiscal year 2022, which ran from July 1, 2021 to June 30 of this year.
However, with both larger localities and private collectors struggling with pickups over the past couple of years, Herndon sees its seamless trash and recycling service to 5,200 households and over 150 public sites as a genuine accomplishment.
“Our ability to get [commercially licensed drivers] behind the wheels of our trash trucks was a very difficult task this year,” Ashton said. “I will applaud [Director of Public Works] Scott Robinson and [Deputy Director] Tammy Chastain and the team for really taking a look at our organization and moving resources where they needed to be…to make sure this happened, and we didn’t miss a single day of trash throughout the pandemic and even through to today.”
From similarly uninterrupted water and sewer services to the police department closing 207 of 263 new criminal investigations, everything that the town did over the past year was accomplished with staffing levels around 85%, according to Ashton.
That figure doesn’t account for employees taking leave, including the “four to five people we had out on Covid almost every week,” he told the council.
Reflecting national labor challenges, Herndon saw record employee turnover due to both resignations and retirements in FY 2022, according to the annual report.
“Eleven employees retired in FY 2022, a higher pace than recent years and — due largely to pandemic-caused pressures — consistent with national measures,” the report says. “Total turnover of regular status employees increased by 53 percent in FY 2022.”
The town did manage to hire 141 employees, a 59% increase from the previous fiscal year and a number consistent with pre-pandemic levels. But it now takes three to six months to hire for a new position that once would’ve taken half that time, even with the addition of a human resources staffer dedicated to recruiting, Ashton said.
In some cases, staff compensated for the shortage of personnel by adapting services and programming, as was the case with the annual Herndon Festival’s downsizing into a carnival. A shortage of volunteer support and difficulties booking entertainers also contributed to the decision to modify the festival.
“Attendance was not as robust as in previous years, when a full festival was held, but it affirmed the community was willing to support a modified and, in this case, a lesser event,” Ashton said.
Council members praised staff for their work and willingness to reevaluate and improve how the town operates. The parks and recreation department, for instance, changed its quarterly events guide to one produced in-house every two months, allowing staff more flexibility while giving the community more up-to-date information.
“Staff had a difficult time providing this community with the quality levels of services they expect, but through resilience, agility, and creativity, we met our missions,” Ashton said.
Trash troubles keep piling up with the county out of trash cans for at least another two months.
Fairfax County has “exhausted” its inventory of trash cans and won’t be able to provide new ones to residents until later this fall, Dept. of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) spokesperson Sharon North told FFXnow.
“A new order already has been placed and should be in-house by early November,” she said via email.
In the meantime, North suggested that residents who are waiting on a new trash can to put their trash in a box or another container and leave it curbside on their pick-up day.
“It will be picked up, even if it’s in a box,” she said.
The missing trash can issue was brought to FFXnow’s attention by a Dranesville District resident.
Just called @fairfaxcounty to get a new #trash can after mine cracked. Was told they don’t have any and don’t know when they will be getting any. Also said they won’t reimburse me for one I buy. Told me to put my trash in a box 🤔 @ffxconnector @TysonsReporter @washingtonpost
— Kate Hawken (@katehawken) September 15, 2022
About 90% of county residents and businesses have their trash picked up by private haulers, but about 10% have theirs picked up by the county. That’s about 43,000 residential units.
It’s those 43,000 that are potentially impacted by the shortage, though it only applies to those who are requesting a new trash can due to theirs being broken, moving into a new house, or are otherwise in need.
The problem started earlier this summer, North shared, when the county gained about 1,100 new customers. This created a bit of a “domino effect.” While the county’s Solid Waste Management Program put in order for more trash cans in May, those were all gone by July.
Rising costs and shortages of the worldwide supply of resin also have contributed to the lack of trash cans available to county residents, North said. The hope remains that a fresh stock of gleaming new trash cans will be available come November for new residents and those with broken ones alike.
This isn’t the county’s only recent trash trouble.
Last month, county officials addressed the “multiple complaints” they’ve been getting from residents about the performance of some contracted trash collectors in the county. Reports were coming from across the county about haulers missing pick-ups and not communicating delays all the while potentially increasing rates.
Complaints were coming in most often about American Disposal, a pattern that dated back to 2019. The company blamed a driver shortage, but Board Chair Jeff McKay told FFXnow in August that alone shouldn’t result in missed pick-ups and increasing rates.
“[A driver shortage] should not result in some of the significant problems our residents face as our haulers do not lack for resources to remedy staffing and related issues,” he said.
A number of solutions were proposed including “franchising” the county’s trash collecting and issuing fines to haulers not fulfilling their trash pick-up duties.
At a Tuesday meeting, the board approved a board matter by Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw to further examine problems with American Disposal Services and possible solutions.
The matter was jointly pushed forward by McKay and supervisors Kathy Smith and Dan Storck. It directs county staff to update the board on efforts to address complaints about missed and late pick-ups. The matter also includes language the could allow the county to move to a different system of solid waste collection, if changes are approved by the General Assembly.
“County staff from the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services have done amazing work to resolve residents’ individual issues with ADS — but a better solution would be for ADS to meet the requirements of the County ordinance and keep its commitment to its customers,” Walkinshaw wrote in a statement.
Labor Day weekend is upon us, heralding the imminent return of pumpkin spice lattes and everything fall.
Fairfax County government offices will be closed in honor of the holiday, but some facilities will remain open.
Government offices for Fairfax County, Fairfax City, and the towns of Herndon and Vienna will be closed on Monday, although some facilities may remain open.
Fairfax County Public Schools will also observe the holiday. All libraries will also be closed.
Trash and recycling
Fairfax County advises residents to contact their trash and recycling collector directly for any service schedule changes due to the holiday.
Metrorail, Metrobus, and MetroAccess will operate on a Sunday schedule. Because of the holiday, customers will benefit from off-peak fares, and parking will be free all day.
There’s also another reason to celebrate: Labor Day is the last day of closures at five Orange Line stations.
Fairfax Connector will operate on a Sunday schedule.
The county’s circuit and general district courts will be closed due to the holiday. Juvenile and domestic relations courts will also be closed.
All recreational centers will be open for regular hours with the exception of the George Washington Rec Center, which is closed for the day.
All historic sites will be closed, alongside county-run nature centers. Frying Pan Farm Park is open, but its visitors center is closed. Green Spring Gardens will be closed to the public.
Photo via Tim Mossholder/Unsplash
Trash collection has become a hot mess in Fairfax County of late.
After FFXnow reported earlier this week on local officials’ efforts to address an avalanche of complaints, many community members added their tales of woe to the ongoing saga of late or entirely neglected pickups, ineffectual communication, and reductions in service without accompanying decreases in fees.
One commenter hasn’t gotten pickups in four weeks, while another said that American Disposal Services — the private hauler that has emerged as the primary troublemaker — misses over half their scheduled collection days. Accumulating garbage and recycling has spawned a rat infestation at the Hollybrooke Condominiums in Seven Corners, according to a tipster.
In addition, multiple community members confirmed that they’d been notified of an impending 10% rate increase by American Disposal, which reduced pickups from twice to once a week this spring, citing staffing challenges.
While it’s difficult to gauge just how widespread the issue is, local government officials told FFXnow that comments they’ve gotten or seen on social media — and their own experiences — suggest residents across the county have been affected.
Have you seen a noticeable deterioration in your trash service lately? Feel free to vent or perhaps brag (within the bounds of our comments policy) about your waste collection experiences below.
Fairfax County is still having trash troubles.
Earlier this month in his weekly newsletter, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay wrote that he was “aware of multiple complaints” about the performance of some contracted trash collectors in the county.
While neighboring localities faced similar challenges earlier this summer, McKay said that was little excuse for haulers not providing customers proper service.
“While these companies face the same staffing and supply chain issues that have impacted everyone, they still owe it to their customers to be fully transparent about this process,” McKay wrote.
About 90% of all county residents and businesses have their trash, recycling, and yard waste picked up by private haulers paid for by individual residents, homeowners’ associations, or similar organizations. That’s about 381,000 residential units.
The remaining 10%, mainly concentrated in the east, have their trash picked up by Fairfax County.
McKay wrote in the newsletter that the process to petition for a neighborhood to have its waste picked up by the county is currently “suspended.”
McKay told FFXnow that residents have reported contracted waste haulers missing pick-ups and failing to communicate about what’s going on.
It’s unclear exactly how many of the nearly 400,000 residences serviced by private haulers are having trash troubles, but McKay’s office believes it’s a “significant” number “based on the feedback to our offices and what we see on social media.”
The issue also has been going on for months. In February, the Board of Supervisors Environmental Committee got a memo outlining some of the issues, resident complaints, and potential solutions.
According to the memo, starting in November of last year, residents have complained significantly more about private contractor American Disposal than any other. The company faced similar problems and resident complaints in 2019 as well.
In April, American Disposal reduced pickups from twice a week to once due to ongoing labor shortages. Additionally, there are reports on NextDoor and Reddit that the company is raising its rates by 10%, angering customers even further.
FFXnow reached out to American Disposal for comment but has yet to hear back as of publication.
The board chair’s office said it has heard about rate increases anecdotally but hasn’t gotten any official notice from American Disposal.
“We can certainly understand and relate to the frustration and continue to actively look into the operations of our private haulers,” McKay’s office said. Read More