Hoquiam joins Hometown Sanitation in suit against competitor

Cowlitz Clean Sweep, a Longview-based company, has been collecting industrial waste from Imperium Renewables since 2011. But the owners of Hometown Sanitation hope to put a stop to the practice, arguing that Cowlitz is violating their contract with the City of Hoquiam.

Hometown Sanitation has been Hoquiam’s sole garbage collector since 2004, when the city stopped collecting its own garbage. The Hoquiam-based company submitted a bid to city officials and paid $1 million for the right to collect solid waste from residents and businesses alike, said John Parker, a Parker, Winkelman &Parker attorney representing Hometown Sanitation.

Hometown Sanitation began collecting waste from Imperium in 2006, soon after the company built a facility at the Port of Grays Harbor. But a few years ago, LeMay’s Central Transfer stopped taking some of the waste collected from Imperium.

“The transfer station was concerned about some of the material because they thought it was contributing to fires,” Parker said. “They tried to solve the problem, but they couldn’t get anywhere with Imperium because another company started hauling materials for them.”

That’s where Cowlitz Clean Sweep comes in. The company began collecting industrial waste from Imperium in 2011, hauling it to facilities in Vancouver and other locations. Hometown Sanitation still collects a small amount of garbage from Imperuim.

“Hometown said they didn’t want to be involved in the hauling and transporting the material, so Imperium went with another company,”said Zachary McIsaac, a Seattle-based Ashbaugh Beal attorney representing Cowlitz Clean Sweep.

In June of 2013, Hometown Sanitation filed a lawsuit in Grays Harbor County Superior Court, alleging Cowlitz Clean Sweep had interfered with Hometown Sanitation’s contract with the City of Hoquiam and Imperium, and that the company suffered more than $100,000 in damages as a result.

“They’re poaching a significant source of revenue without the right to do so,” Parker said.

Parker said the lawsuit is currently in the discovery phase, and the case could go to trial if the parties don’t reach an agreement.

McIsaac said Cowlitz Clean Sweep isn’t violating Hometown Sanitation’s contract, as the materials Cowlitz Clean Sweep is hauling are recyclable, and shouldn’t be classified as garbage.

“From our perspective this falls outside of the agreement,” McIsaac said. “But Hometown still thinks they should be making money somehow.”

According to Parker, Hometown Sanitation has since resolved the issue with LeMay’s Central Transfer, and the station will now take the disputed materials.

Hoquiam City Attorney Steve Johnson said the city has also lost money as a result of Cowlitz Clean Sweep hauling Imperium’s waste. The city collects a 10 percent franchise fee and an 8 percent utility tax on all waste transported in Hoquiam. So if, for example, a company were to complete $100,000 worth of waste transportation, the city would collect $18,000.

“I don’t know exactly how much material has been hauled, so I’m not sure how much money we lost,” Johnson said.

The Hoquiam City Council voted Monday night to intervene in the lawsuit, and Johnson said he plans to make a motion to join the lawsuit on the side of Hometown Sanitation.

“We’ve always been happy with Hometown’s performance,” Johnson said.


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