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Toledo rejects oil station proposal as county turns toward Winlock

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Toledo officials have declined a request to build a county-managed oil recycling station within the city limits as efforts turn toward Winlock to seek a similar agreement.

Discussed during the Toledo City Council's Sept. 2 meeting, a request from Lewis County Public Works to have a collection station built on city property, possibly downtown near the intersection of Cowltiz St. and 3rd St., was voted down unanimously on the basis the facility may become an eyesore and a pollution hazard.

This had been the second time Toledo turned down an agreement to build the station after first considering the county's proposal Aug. 18. Officials with Lewis County Public Works responded Sept. 2 by sending representatives to share more information regarding their intentions for the station, and while the council said they were grateful to have had more of their questions answered, they again turned down the proposal.

"My major concern is location, location, location," said Council Member Nate Cook Sept. 2, who was serving as mayor pro-tem in the absence of Mayor Jerry Pratt. "I don't feel comfortable putting it in a business district."

The proposal had come about as Lewis County seeks to improve their methods for recycling used motor oil, partly in response to displeasure with the current system and also to comply with state environmental mandates.

"One of the big things that the state has tasked local governments with is to collect used oil so it doesn't get improperly disposed of," said Lewis County Hazardous Waste Coordinator Mark Bronson to the council. "Without tanks and oil collection sites in communities, the tendency is for people to just change their oil in their back yards and just let it soak into the ground."

Bronson said grants are currently available to the county for updates to infrastructure, including their oil collection methods, with fellow presenter and Solid Waste Services Manager Steve Skinner stating the county intends to use this as an opportunity to update how and where used oil is collected.

Under the current system, site sponsors, typically private property owners, are sought out so the county may place stations in visible, well-traveled areas, with the intention of site sponsors maintaining the station and contacting the county if the tanks need to be emptied.

Skinner said sponsors have often not upheld these agreements and allowed stations to become cluttered and filthy, identifying one such "problem site" as their station in Napavine, which Toledo officials had also cited as justification for their concerns.

He added, when the property changes hands, which can happen frequently, new owners may desire to have the station moved elsewhere, placing a strain on county labor resources as well as presenting the difficulty of finding a new location.

"If we can get it within a municipality and get an interlocal agreement, it will be there for a long time," said Skinner, stating it is the county's goal now to work exclusively with public entities, and for his department to assume all maintenance responsibility, while still asking site sponsors to keep an eye on the station.

In line with these goals, Skinner said the mobile stations in Napavine and at Ed Carlson Memorial Airfield, north of Toledo, will be closing at the end of the year, with the intent of also establishing a permanent station somewhere within South Lewis County by that time. He has described the permanent facilities as three-walled structures with gated entry to the tanks, designed to contain any spills or leaks that may occur, as opposed to the temporary facilities consisting of the tanks and a movable awning.

After hearing Toledo had declined to be a site sponsor, Skinner said it will be his goal to next approach the Winlock City Council and determine if there may be a solution in that area instead.

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