Environmental Health

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Environmental Health

Director: Keith Higman


Solid Waste and Hazardous Waste

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Garbage Storage and Disposal
Business and household garbage (non-recyclable waste that will decay over time) must be stored in solid, covered, leak proof, watertight containers and removed from a property at least every two weeks. Improper storage and disposal of garbage can cause odors, pollution, and attract disease causing vectors like flies and rodents. Garbage must be disposed at a permitted solid waste facility. Information on permitted facilities can be found through Public Works Solid Waste Division [more]

Report illegal dumping or improper storage and disposal of garbage by calling (360) 416-1555
or submitting a report electronically. Please be as specific as possible with your location information. The Health Department will investigate and enforce on solid waste code violations.

Composting is another legal option for disposal of food waste and green waste (grass clippings, plants, leaves, twigs). Green Waste and Food Waste from your household may be self-hauled to a transfer facility or a permitted compost facility. Waste Management also provides commercial pick up of green waste and food waste in some locations in the county. Information on facilities can be found at Public Works Yard Waste and Food Waste. . Information on home composting can be found at Public Works Master Composter website here


Household Hazardous Waste
Many chemicals that you may use or have stored in and around your household can need special disposal as hazardous waste. [more]

Identifying Hazardous Waste

Read all labels before disposing of any container that is not completely empty. Watch for words like Hazard - Danger - Caution. Review all of your household and yard care chemicals at least twice per year and properly dispose of those you will not use or that may be leaking.

Disposal Options
For convenient proper disposal of household hazardous waste use the Skagit County Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility .

Storage and Use
Use the following methods to reduce your risk from hazardous chemicals:

  • Substitute less hazardous cleaners and lawn care products for hazardous chemicals. King County provides information on common hazardous household chemicals and safer alternatives.
  • Store hazardous chemicals in leak proof, sealed containers safe from children, pets, and weather exposure. If possible, keep chemicals in their original, labeled containers. If containers are degrading, place the container within a second sealed container and dispose through the county collection facility.
  • Use chemicals only according to manufacturer's directions. Do not pour any chemicals down the drain. If a chemical is designed to be used in a drain, use only at the diluted strength.
  • Fuels and petroleum oils are hazardous chemicals and need to be stored and treated as such. Waste motor oil should be collected and disposed at a recycling center or the county collection facility.
  • Always wear appropriate gloves and use adequate ventilation as directed on product labels when mixing and using chemicals.

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
Compact fluorescent bulbs and fluorescent bulbs are very energy efficient. These bulbs do contain mercury, a toxic metal, and need special handling. Home owners and businesses can dispose of up to 10 fluorescent bulbs per day at no cost at a bulb take back center.  Take back center locations are listed at Light Recycle Washington .

Before disposal, fluorescent bulbs should be stored in a manner that will not result in breakage. Should you break a bulb please use this method of clean up to avoid exposure to mercury.

The EPA has done a cost/benefit analysis of the bulbs and found that the overall impact of mercury in the environment from using compact fluorescent bulbs is far less than the mercury released to the environment from burning coal to power the less efficient incandescent bulbs. Fluorescent bulbs are a good thing for the environment and reduce your energy costs.


Secure Medicine Return and Biomedical Waste
Avoid medicine accumulation. Make sure your doctor and pharmacist are only supplying you with medications you will use. Decline free samples unless you know it is a medication you can use and in a quantity you can use. Review your medicines frequently and remove those that will not be used. [more]

Secure Medicine Return Ordinance
Board of Health adopted the Secure Medicine Return ordinance which will create and fund a comprehensive medicine return program for Skagit County. [more]

Sharps and Bandages
To dispose of syringes or sharps from home use ask your pharmacy or doctor's office if they will accept your used sharps in a sharps container, if they will not accept them, then follow the bullets below:

  • Used syringes, needles, lancets and other contaminated sharp objects should be placed in an opaque, hard plastic or metal container with a screw-on or secured lid. An empty bleach or detergent bottle works well. Do not use glass.
  • Download a label here for the container. Tape the label completely to the container with clear plastic tape.
  • When ¾ full (don't overfill), screw the lid tightly on the container. Seal around the lid with duct tape or plastic tape.
  • Dispose of the container in the regular trash: Do Not Recycle.

Gloves, soiled bandages, and other items should be placed in securely fastened plastic bags and disposed of with your regular trash.

Business generated sharps

Businesses are required to dispose of their collected biohazardous sharps via a licensed biomedical waste handler.  On-site pick up services and mail order services are available.  Businesses must keep receipts of legal disposal for at least 3 years.  Businesses are not allowed to dispose of biohazardous sharps with regular solid waste.


Pollution Prevention
Learn how to prevent pollution from your business activities. From auto body shops to veterinary clinics, we can help you handle your wastes correctly and protect stormwater from contamination. Be a pollution prevention star today! [more]
Solid and Hazardous Waste Emergency Storage and Disposal
Natural disasters can lead to huge needs for solid and hazardous waste disposal. Normal transportation and disposal options will very likely be compromised, leading to delays in disposal. Emergency Management, Public Works Departments, and the Health Department will work to select safe intermediate solid waste disposal locations until the system can return to normal. [more]

In your household and business it is important to prioritize waste containment and disposal according to public health risk as follow:

  1. Hazardous chemicals must be contained to prevent leaks to the ground or water. Use garbage cans, plastic or metal totes, garbage bags, etc. to provide extra containment to any chemicals that are at risk of leaking. Make sure you do not place incompatible chemicals together (do not put bleach and ammonia in the same container). If chemicals have leaked, scoop up impacted soil or other materials and contain in a sealed container or bags. Use information provided through Emergency Shelters or local public works for disposal options or, if the regular solid waste system is functioning, use the Household Hazardous Waste Collection facility for disposal.

  2. Animal carcasses should be buried or otherwise disposed as soon as possible. Ideally carcasses should be buried under three feet of soil. Burial locations should be located away from surface water and drinking water sources. In a large disaster, animal carcass disposal locations may be chosen by emergency management leaders and the Health Department. Check for information through Emergency Shelters or local public works.

  3. Food waste and other putrescible (rotting) wastes need to be contained. Waste food from your refrigerator or freezer needs to be contained and disposed carefully to prevent attracting rodents and other vectors.

  4. Moldy water damaged materials should be contained in plastic bags or other closed containers and removed from the living space. These items should not attract rodents and can wait for disposal at a later date if the solid waste collection system is down.

  5. Demolition waste can be piled in locations on your property that will not pose a threat to children pending removal by public works or other emergency service providers. Care should be taken with sharps like broken glass or metals, contain these within other solid containers if possible. Loose insulation should be bagged. This waste will not decay quickly and can wait for community wide cleanup for disposal. Check Emergency Shelters or public works departments for information on demolition waste cleanup days.
Closed Landfills
In Skagit County, as in many areas of the country, solid waste was historically placed out of sight in low areas, such as down riverbanks, in tidal flats, or in old gravel pits. [more]

Landfill History

In Skagit County, as in many areas of the country, solid waste was historically placed out of sight in low areas, such as down riverbanks, in tidal flats, or in old gravel pits. We have known for many decades now that these types of locations were very bad choices for solid waste disposal. During the 1950's and 1960's dumps were often burned on a daily basis to reduce the volume of garbage and reduce rat attraction. In the 1970's the Environmental Protection Agency and state and local governments began to regulate solid waste disposal to prevent pollution of groundwater, surface water, and the air. Most landfills in Skagit County were closed for use by the mid to late 1970's. After that time, only a few landfills were used that could comply with the new requirements.

Landfill Locations
Skagit County no longer has active solid waste landfills. Because we have such an abundance of surface water and very shallow groundwater it is difficult to safely site a landfill in the county. The Health Department does maintain records and location information on the abandoned and closed landfills in the county. Drinking water wells are prohibited from being drilled within 1000 feet of a property containing a landfill. If you are interested in further information please call 360-416-1500.

Monitoring and Remediation
Skagit County Public Works performs routine groundwater monitoring around three closed county landfills. The Health Department reviews this monitoring data and performs inspections of closed landfills. If an abandoned landfill is found to pose a threat to human health or the environment the Health Department will work with the property owners to mitigate this threat.