CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In the past six years, the Pocahontas County Solid Waste Authority has sued more than 400 county residents, about 5 percent of the entire county, for not paying fees associated with the county's unique "green box" trash program.
And those fees, based on local regulations, appear to be in conflict with state code.
Among those who have been sued are a current board member of the Solid Waste Authority and the former president of the board.
Like many rural counties, trash collection is limited in Pocahontas County, there is only one collection company, Allegheny Disposal, and it is primarily used by businesses.
Almost everyone who doesn't hire Allegheny Disposal is required to pay a $98 annual fee for the privilege of using the "green boxes," collection sites throughout the county where residents can drop off trash.
That fee applies to everybody with property in Pocahontas County, even those who stay in the county as little as one night a year and produce no trash.
Every other county that has similar drop off locations charges by the amount of trash that residents drop off, not a flat fee.
Doug Bernier, the board member who was sued by the Solid Waste Authority, said that the flat fee system offers no incentive for people to cut down on their trash and recycle, and instead makes the landfill the de facto first choice.
"The fellow who hauls a pickup load of trash to the green boxes every week is paying the same fee as the widow who might take a little bag every two months," Bernier said. "Compared to counties that don't have landfills, or ones in more metropolitan areas, $98 per year is a bargain. It is a very expensive proposition to operate a landfill. It's expensive to bury all this trash, which is all the more reason to bury as little of it as possible."
West Virginia code says that all residents need to either pay a garbage collection fee or prove that they dispose of their trash "at least once within every thirty-day period at approved solid waste facilities or in any other lawful manner."
The Pocahontas County Solid Waste Authority will waive the annual fee if residents can prove that they drop their trash off at the landfill on the free drop off day, the last Tuesday of each month. But miss just one Tuesday, and residents are back on the hook for the $98 fee.
And county residents say that the Solid Waste Authority is not letting them dispose of their trash in "any other lawful manner," as mandated by state code.