The Dirt Yard closes after King County health inspection

The Dirt Yard has shut down its operation in the last couple of weeks. The owner’s phone number was on the bottom of the sign at the facility’s entrance but was painted over last week.  - Leslie Brown/staff photo
The Dirt Yard has shut down its operation in the last couple of weeks. The owner’s phone number was on the bottom of the sign at the facility’s entrance but was painted over last week.
— image credit: Leslie Brown/staff photo

The Dirt Yard, a commercial enterprise that took in construction debris and sold fill, has apparently closed after an inspection by King County’s health department found that the operation violated county codes.

An inspector from the environmental health services division of Public Health — Seattle & King County visited the bustling operation behind Minglement on Cemetery Road in February as part of a countywide effort to take a look at small solid waste facilities that are legally non-permitted. The goal of these inspections, said Hilary Karasz, a spokesperson for the county Health Department, is to ensure such operations are still within the legal bounds of small-scale, non-permitted facilities.

The inspection also came in the wake of complaints from neighbors who said they thought the collection facility was discharging “what appears to be oily runoff ... into Judd Creek,” according to e-mail records from the state Department of Ecology, which referred the complaint to the county. The Dirt Yard is within the Judd Creek watershed and near one of its tributaries.

After the inspection, the county wrote a letter to Dennis Didricksen, owner of The Dirt Yard, saying that the way he was storing yard debris violated county code because he wasn’t controlling run-off from decomposing materials at the site. He could come into compliance, the inspector said in the March 2 letter, by no longer accepting such materials or by undertaking methods to control run-off — such as placing the materials on a concrete pad.

Didricksen, reached shortly after he received the letter, said he wasn’t sure he could comply with the county’s request. “I’m looking for a job,” he added.

He did not return several subsequent phone calls to his mobile phone number, the number family members suggested a reporter call. The sign at the gate was also changed; his name and number, previously displayed on the sign, were covered up with white paint.

Meanwhile, in a related development, Matt Bergman, a well-known Island attorney, became the property’s new owner a few weeks ago. Bergman had a security interest in the property; when the owners foreclosed on their debt to Bergman, the property reverted to him. (Didricksen did not own the property.)

“We acquired it through a foreclosure based on a debt that was owed to us,” Bergman said. “This is not a property we sought to acquire.”

But, he added, he’s troubled by the sorry state of the property — huge mounds of dirt and debris surrounded by a cyclone fence.

“My goal is to bring it into compliance as quickly as possible,” he said. “It’s a disgrace right now.”

Bergman said he was unsure about his future plans for the 3.6-acre site, which Didricksen has run as a debris collection and recycling site for around six years. “My goal is to clean it up and possibly develop it, possibly not. ... I’m going to step up to the plate and make it right.”

Meanwhile, some of The Dirt Yard’s customers said they were sorry to see the place go. Dave Hill, who has lived on Vashon more than 40 years, said he often took a load of yard waste — blackberry clippings, for instance — to the site, debris he didn’t want to take to the county transfer station, where there’s no recycling of green waste.

“It’s a shame,” he said. “Some might say, ‘If I can’t take it there, maybe I’ll just burn it.’ And a lot of people don’t like that.”

Karasz, with the health department, said it was not the county’s intention to close The Dirt Yard. Did-ricksen either needed to contain his operations to those that don’t require a permit, she said, or, if he wanted to take his operation to a higher level, obtain a permit.

“It has to do with following the law,” she said.

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