Waste Disposal Contractor
County Council President Roger Berliner says he’s asked for more information about the county’s trash contractor’s labor shortage
Residents in southern Montgomery County have been experiencing delays with their recycling and trash pickup for the past month and County Council President Roger Berliner says he’s examining what can be done.
At a press briefing Monday, Berliner said Potomac Disposal, the county’s trash, recycling and yard waste hauler in Bethesda and parts of Silver Spring, has staffing issues that have resulted in delays in recycling and yard waste pickup.
The county’s Division of Solid Waste Services notes on its website that it’s “continuing to experience delays with the contractor’s normal collection” of waste.
Bill Broglie, the division’s acting chief, said Monday that Potomac Disposal has a shortage of truck drivers with commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs). The driver shortage has resulted in the contractor failing to conduct pickups of recycling and yard waste in the area over the past two weeks. On Saturday, county field inspectors went out with crews from Potomac Disposal to pick up waste that wasn’t collected on several routes, but homes that didn’t receive pickup as of Saturday may have to wait until their next scheduled collection, according to Broglie.
Bethesda resident Diana Huffman said in an email to Bethesda Beat that her recycling was picked up three days late last week and residents have been complaining on a local listserv about missed pickups.
Montgomery County has two contracts with Rockville-based Potomac Disposal that are scheduled to expire in 2018. The county paid the firm .85 million in 2016 to handle waste collection, according to the county’s spending website.
Potomac Disposal President Lee Levine did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
Berliner reminded Lisa Feldt, director of the county’s Department of Environmental Protection, in a letter sent Monday that waste pickup is a fundamental government service.
“I ask you to take whatever contractual measures are available to get recycling, trash and yard trim pick-ups back on schedule as soon as possible, ” Berliner wrote. “It is unacceptable for our residents to face multi-day delays.”
Berliner said the county may pursue a new contractor if the issues with Potomac Disposal can’t be corrected quickly.
Broglie said he has spoken with Potomac Disposal management and has informed the company it will be held accountable for contract requirements that are not met.
He said the county’s other two waste collection contractors—Ecology Services Inc. and Unity Disposal & Recycling—have not had similar issues. However, he said he wasn’t sure if either contractor would have the capacity to handle Potomac Disposal’s routes.
This isn’t the first time the county has had a dispute with Potomac Disposal. In 2013, the waste service’s workers staged a three-week strike in which they protested the amount of their pay and a lack of paid sick and vacation days. The workers reached a three-year deal with the company that included pay raises and one paid sick or vacation day.
Partly in response to the strike, the county strengthened its living wage law in 2016 to ensure that companies that contract with the county pay their workers appropriately and don’t deduct unfairly from their pay for expenses such as buying uniforms or cellphones.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story included a photo of a truck from Potomac Disposal Services of Virginia, which is not affiliated with Potomac Disposal, Inc. The photo has been removed.
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