Seattle P-I Offers Bland Story on Seattle Garbage Crisis, Ignores Salt Ban As Factor

Photo by Meryl Schenker for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer"Garbage piles up, even after snow has melted," reads a December 29 Seattle Post-Intelligencer story posted to the Web site Sunday evening. Yet nowhere in the story by staffers Brad Wong or Eric Nalder was any blame for the garbage glut laid at the doorstep of the city's Democratic chief executive.

Mayor Greg Nickels may be partly to blame for the trash backlog because of his stubborn refusal to salt the roads during the Emerald City's latest snowstorms. Indeed, as the Seattle Times reported, the city's streets were left snow-packed "by design" (h/t Fausta):

To hear the city's spin, Seattle's road crews are making "great progress" in clearing the ice-caked streets.

But it turns out "plowed streets" in Seattle actually means "snow-packed," as in there's snow and ice left on major arterials by design.

"We're trying to create a hard-packed surface," said Alex Wiggins, chief of staff for the Seattle Department of Transportation. "It doesn't look like anything you'd find in Chicago or New York."

The city's approach means crews clear the roads enough for all-wheel and four-wheel-drive vehicles, or those with front-wheel drive cars as long as they are using chains, Wiggins said.

The icy streets are the result of Seattle's refusal to use salt, an effective ice-buster used by the state Department of Transportation and cities accustomed to dealing with heavy winter snows.

"If we were using salt, you'd see patches of bare road because salt is very effective," Wiggins said. "We decided not to utilize salt because it's not a healthy addition to Puget Sound."

And what happens when you have icy conditions on hilly roads in Seattle? Well, let's say it makes it hard for heavy garbage trucks to safely navigate, as the P-I noted today:

Icy roads Saturday still prevented many 9-ton garbage trucks from entering some Seattle neighborhoods in the higher elevations, such as those in West Seattle and Maple Leaf, as well as areas in Shoreline, Renton, SeaTac, Burien, Bellevue, Sammamish and Snohomish County, officials said.

Yet while the P-I's Wong and Nalder quoted on resident quipping that "it's looking like civic hell out there" with the garbage pile-up, at no point did the reporters mention Mayor Greg Nickels or his stubborn anti-salt policy. What's more, Wong and Nalder closed their article by citing residents seemingly unfazed by the backlog in what is a basic government service:

While many residents have become increasingly frustrated with the lack of service, some are taking the delay in stride.

In West Seattle, six white garbage bags full of trash or bottles sat on the curb next to the garbage and recycling containers at Jennifer Ryan's house.

"I completely understand," the 35-year-old said.

"With the snow, you can only do what you can do."

Photo by Meryl Schenker for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Original caption: "Garbage overflows from bins in front of an apartment building on 14th Avenue West in Seattle on Sunday."

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters