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Bob Ferguson

AGO 1956 No. 245 - Apr 9 1956
Attorney General Don Eastvold


It is the duty of county commissioners to provide garbage dumps for unincorporated areas but not for incorporated areas within the county.

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                                                                    April 9, 1956 

Honorable Lee J. Reynolds
Prosecuting Attorney of Clallam County
Kuppler Building
Port Angeles, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 245

 Dear Sir:

             In your letter of March 6, 1956, previously acknowledged, you have requested our opinion concerning the providing and maintenance of garbage dumps in the county and in cities of the fourth class within the county.  The specific questions propounded are as follows:

             1. Is it the county commissioners' duty to provide county garbage dumps?

             2. If so, from what funds are they allocated?

             3. Who is responsible for the maintenance, inspection and supervision of county garbage dumps?

             4. Who is responsible for garbage disposal for fourth class cities in Clallam County?

             5. Does the county have the right to furnish a garbage dump for a city?

              [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

           We answer your first question in the affirmative.

             The answer to questions 2, 3 and 4 will be found in the analysis below.

             The answer to your fifth question is in the negative.


             It is the duty of the county commissioners to provide for collection and disposal of garbage in the county exclusive of incorporated areas.  The preservation of the public health is among the most important objects sought to be secured by governmental laws.  Article XI, § 11 of the Washington constitution reads as follows:

             "Any county, city, town or township may make and enforce within its limits all such local police, sanitary and other regulations as are not in conflict with general laws."

             Failure to collect and dispose of garbage constitutes a serious menace to health.  State v. Lovelace, 118 Wash. 50.

             RCW 36.58.010 authorizes the acquisition of garbage sites by any board of county commissioners; and RCW 36.58.020 empowers the commissioners with the authority to make rules and regulations necessary for the use and occupation of the site, and, further, to provide for the maintenance and care thereof.

             RCW 55.04.010 et seq. provides for the formation of sanitary districts for the collection and disposal of garbage in areas outside of cities and towns, and sets out the method of formation.

             Chapter 55.08 RCW authorizes the board of county commissioners to adopt, amend and enforce reasonable rules and regulations and fix reasonable schedules of fees commensurate with the cost of collection and disposal.

             Chapter 55.12 RCW provides for a special garbage fund to be created by the county treasurer and sets forth the procedure for collection of delinquent fees.

              [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Counties and county commissioners have only such powers as are expressly granted by statute or necessarily implied therefrom.  Raynor v. King County, 2 Wn. (2d) 199, and cases cited therein.  In view of the lack of legislative authority we conclude that the county does not have the right to furnish a garbage dump for a city.

             RCW 35.27.370 (1955 Supp.) sets forth the specific power of fourth class cities.  The seventeenth provision thereof grants generally the right to make all such ordinances, bylaws, rules, regulations and resolutions deemed expedient for the welfare of the town, not inconsistent with the constitution and the laws of the State of Washington.  We conclude that a town has the right and the duty to provide for collection and disposal of garbage.

             We refer you to three attorney general's opinions, to-wit:  To Dr. Donald G. Evans, State Director of Health, July 31, 1942; to Mr. Lew Selvidge, Executive Secretary, Washington State Association of County Commissioners, September 23, 1943; and to the Honorable Thurman E. Ward, Prosecuting Attorney of Klickitat County, May 20, 1952 [[Opinion No. 51-53-310]].  Copies of these opinions are enclosed and should prove helpful.

             It is our opinion that the county has the right and the duty to provide for collection and disposal of garbage in unincorporated areas, either by contracting for that purpose or by formation of sanitary districts as provided by law.

             We trust this opinion will be of assistance to you.

 Very truly yours,
Attorney General 

Assistant Attorney General