JEFFERSON COUNTY — The owners of Panhandle Dumpsters began servicing Berkeley and Jefferson counties several years ago, providing alternative services for refuse and waste removal.
According to co-owner John Rickards, there are only two states in the nation that require that services be regulated by the state. West Virginia is one of those states where approval of permits comes through the Public Service Commission.
“There is only one permitted hauler in this area,” Rickards said.
That one is Apple Valley Waste. Rickards said that Panhandle Dumpsters did business over time without a certificate of need (CON), which it is allowed to do as long as it transports the waste outside of West Virginia borders.
After establishing the company without a CON and building up a customer base, Panhandle Dumpsters’ owners went before the Public Service Commission to request a certificate to allow the company to dump within the state. With the CON, the company would also be able to offer recycling to its customers, something it cannot do right now.
Last week, Panhandle Dumpsters sent emails to several hundred customers informing them that service will be discontinued in their area beginning the week of June 6. That email was precipitated by the denial of the CON by the state.
Those areas included Harpers Ferry, Bolivar, residences on the Blue Ridge and some in the southern-most part of the Summit Point area.
“It’s a business model move,” Rickards said, as he explained that to continue traveling to the far borders of Jefferson County and having to then transport the waste to Greencastle, Pennsylvania, is not cost effective.
Pennsylvania is the closest area where Panhandle Dumpsters can offload trash outside of West Virginia. Both Frederick County, Virginia, and Washington County, Maryland, that have dump sites, only allow in-state dumping at their locations. Ironically, haulers from Maryland can come into West Virginia to dump trash, but the state only allows one permitted hauler to receive the CON at this time.
“We wanted to continue and tried to get the permit,” Rickards said. “We were optimistic because we had established a large customer base and had a good bit of support.
“And, then, we were denied,” he added, saying that opposition came from Apple Valley, as well as from the Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority. “Basically, the PSC said the current company is providing adequate service, and there is no need for us to be granted a permit.”
Without the permit, the cost of continuing to transport trash to Pennsylvania is cost-prohibitive from some areas. Without the permit, Panhandle Dumpsters has to ability to choose not to service some areas, a choice, Rickards said, it would not have if it was awarded the permit.
“With the certificate, we would be required to service anyone who asked,” he said. “Now, we can make those decisions — some of which are difficult to make but that are practical for the business.”
Looking ahead, Rickards said at this point in time, he does not believe Panhandle Dumpsters will seek a CON moving forward.
“We just have to adjust our business model,” he said, adding that the company is successful with roll-off services, providing dumpsters and with the remaining residential customers in their new service areas. “We did everything we could to do it the right way. The certificate of need would have allowed us to have much less drive time, but now, we are so far away from where we can dump, that’s what helped make this decision.
“At the end of the day, we can’t continue to provide service to an area where we are losing money,” he said.