Disposal sites set for bunny bodies

Island Disposal is providing drop-off bins for dead rabbits in Langley.

A disease outbreak has killed so many rabbits on South Whidbey that proper disposal of their carcasses has been a bit of a conundrum.

After some initial confusion about what to do with the bunnies killed by rabbit hemorrhagic disease, Island Disposal and the city of Langley decided that the waste management service would provide 96-gallon containers on Monday to dispose of the carcasses and would send a delivery driver to collect and transfer the containers to the Island County Transfer Station.

The drop-off areas are located at the main gate to the city’s Waste Water Treatment Plant on Coles Road and at the corner of Dalton Lane and Camano Avenue, behind the softball field fence.

Initially, Island Disposal staff members — the company in charge of collecting trash in Island County — said they could not take the bunny bodies, not even if they are double-bagged as the state requires.

Island Disposal told Langley Mayor Scott Chaplin that carcasses are considered hazardous waste by the state, for which their collection containers are not certified. Therefore, if a residential bin was found to contain a carcass, garbage collectors would have to leave it unemptied at the curb.

“If we were to cycle this material through our truck compactors it would result in the carcasses becoming freed from the bags, dismembered and contamination of the entire load of material,” Site Manager Andrew Riggs wrote in an email to Chaplin, saying it is why they have waste acceptance criteria. “It can result in potentially hazardous materials on the Transfer Station tip floor.”

In a memo, Chaplin wrote that in the days following the outbreak, the city received a “flood” of inquiries about what to do in this situation. In the span of three days, he wrote, 20 carcasses were found in the Highlands neighborhood alone, which is 1.4 acres. The Whidbey Island Fairgrounds, which was the epicenter of the outbreak, reported that at least 30 bodies were collected.

In a memo released on July 3, Chaplin advises residents who wish to dispose of a carcass to double bag it, disinfect the bag and refrigerate it. If possible, people should contact the state veterinarian to determine whether the bunny should be submitted for testing or disposed of.

Prior to the drop-off site solution, those who were instructed to dispose of the bunnies would have had to drive to the nearest transfer station in Coupeville, where there are no restrictions on the disposal of small dead animals.