Ethan Hausman greeted people as they arrived to drop off trash.
The Chittenden Solid Waste District has closed all but one of its drop-off centers after the district had some staff members self-quarantine because they were potentially exposed to coronavirus, according to a spokesperson.
No staff member has tested positive for coronavirus, but some are off the job and home in self-quarantine awaiting test results, spokesperson Alise Certa said Thursday.
The resulting staff shortage forced the closure of five drop-off centers. The Environmental Depot hazardous waste facility is also closed. Only the Williston drop-off center, on Redmond Road, remains open.
That site will have modified rules, too. It’ll be open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Beginning on Saturday, customers will pay a $10 flat fee to drop off up to four barrels of trash. Patrons can also unload recycling, food scraps, twigs and tree branches, and untreated wood. Staff will not be able to help visitors unload items — a long-standing rule that remains in place.
Certa said the measures are intended to encourage customers to consolidate visits.
“It's going to help limit exposure to the community and our staff,” she said. “We’re making sure we provide a service and making sure we’re doing our best to keep everyone safe.”
Citing privacy concerns, Certa declined to describe how staff members were potentially exposed to coronavirus or how many had been tested for the disease.
The solid waste district began making coronavirus prevention efforts earlier this month when it closed its administrative offices on March 13. Then on Monday, the district announced all drop-off centers would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday to “enable us to deep-clean facilities, modify our facilities to provide safer interactions between our employees and the public, and provide thorough training on public interaction protocols under these unprecedented conditions.”
On Wednesday, the district announced it would reopen only the Williston location, with restrictions in place.
At the Redmond Road drop-off center Thursday afternoon, traffic was steady, but the wait was only a few minutes. A couple of CSWD employees in yellow safety vests approached drivers lined up to enter the facility in idling vehicles. Standing several feet away, they warned customers about the fee changes coming on Saturday.
Cars entering the Williston drop-off center
At the gate, a worker wearing gloves accepted payment, and several employees directed drivers where to go, keeping traffic moving. People hurled trash bags into bins, dumped food scraps into composting containers and drove off.
Certa said the district hopes that the new rules will encourage customers to space out their visits and allow the drop-off site to operate efficiently, without being overrun. “We’re asking for people’s patience and support,” she said. “Our staff is working really hard.”
Matthew Roy contributed reporting.
Correction, April 2, 2020: Due to incorrect information provided by a CSWD spokesperson, a previous version of this story implied that staff members had been exposed to someone with coronavirus. In fact, they had been "potentially" exposed because the person's status had not yet been determined. The headline and body of the story has been adjusted accordingly.