Monday, March 20, 2017

DEQ to Process Riverbend Vertical Expansion Despite Lack of Court Ruling

DEQ, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, is proceeding with its review of Waste Management's proposed vertical expansion despite a court order requiring Yamhill County to justify its assessment that the expansion meets current zoning requirements.

Bob Schwarz, DEQ permit writer for Riverbend Landfill's operating permit, wrote on March 17:

"Regarding the final grading plan modification application that you mentioned, we will get that application and supplemental information provided by the applicant on the website in the next week or so.

"DEQ reviewed this application with the help of our seismic consultant, and we have concluded that it meets state and federal regulatory requirements, including those for seismic stability. We therefore plan to schedule a public comment period for this proposal in the near future which will include a public hearing.

"The application was accompanied by a Land Use Compatibility Statement dated November 16, 2016, which was subsequently challenged in Circuit Court under a Writ of Review. DEQ is moving forward with this permitting action as required under OAR 340-018-0050(2)(a)(G), which states that 'the Department shall continue to process the action unless ordered otherwise by LUBA or a court of law stays or invalidates a local action.'"

The "final grading plan modification" is Waste Management's euphemism for adding an additional year's worth of garbage to the existing landfill by flattening out its more or less hill-shaped structure.  The website Schwarz references is DEQ's program/project web page for Riverbend Landfill.  The November 16, 2016, "Land Use Compatibility Statement" (LUCS) is the document the County issued affirming that the proposal satisfied County land use requirements.

Landfill neighbors and expansion opponents sued to stop the County from issuing the November 16 LUCS while the larger expansion question is still under consideration by the Court of Appeals (COA).  (The COA is reviewing LUBA's 2016 ruling that the landfill can expand provided the County Board of Commissioners finds that the expansion will not have significant adverse cumulative impacts on area farming.)  The COA's decision will determine whether the landfill can legally expand up in the same area covered by the November 16 LUCS.

Lawyers for expansion opponents argue that neither the County nor DEQ can approve deposit of waste in this area until the COA rules.  The COA could issue its decision at any time.

The initial hearing in Circuit Court on the November 16 LUCS is scheduled for April 12, 2017.

Hazardous Waste Drop-Off May 20 in Newberg

Yamhill County Solid Waste will hold its semi-annual household hazardous waste collection Saturday, May 20, 2017, at the Newberg Transfer Station (2904 Wynooski Street in Newberg).  Waste will be accepted from 9am to 1pm.  The event is for household, not business, waste.

These events are extremely popular and lines are often long, so plan to expect some delay in dropping off your waste.

Hazardous waste can include pesticides, paints, solvents, and other household poisons -- anything with the words "Caution, Warning, Poison, or Danger" anywhere on the label.  Note that 80% of the material Yamhill County collects during these events is paint, though paint can now be taken at any time during regular business hours to any PaintCare facility, including Sherwin-Williams paint stores in both McMinnville and Newberg, Parr Lumber in Newberg, and the Habitat ReStore in McMinnville.  For more information about paint recycling, including locating PaintCare sites, visit PaintCare online.

According to YCSW coordinator Sherrie Mathison, unneeded and outdated medications will also be accepted on May 20, though, as with paint, unwanted medications can always be taken to any local police department or to the Amity Fire Department or Carlton, Dayton, Lafayette, and Sheridan City Hall, at any time during regular business hours.

Thanks to Ms. Mathison for details on this important event.
Spread the word!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Riverbend Vertical Expansion Up In Air

Last November, Waste Management (WM), Riverbend Landfill's Texas-based corporate owner, asked the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to approve a "grading plan modification" at the dump.

This "modification" would add 490,000 cubic yards of waste to the top and side slopes of the landfill -- nearly a year's worth of garbage.  (According to WM personnel, each cubic yard at Riverbend equals about one ton of garbage.)  This waste would mostly be added to cells 1, 2, and 3 -- the original landfill cells, which are unlined and improperly compacted and which flood each winter when the South Yamhill River overflows.

DEQ is not interested in these flaws in the landfill's construction, however.  But by law DEQ must have evidence that the proposed "modification" (ie, vertical expansion) comports with Yamhill County land use law.  This evidence comes in the form of a "Land Use Compatibility Statement," or LUCS, signed by County planners.

Sure enough, the County issued a LUCS for the vertical expansion.  Without giving notice to the landfill's nearest neighbor (and most vocal expansion opponent), the County concluded that any expansion within the landfill's approved footprint as of 1991 meets County land use requirements.

Stop the Dump Coalition (STDC) promptly went to Circuit Court for an order requiring the County to withdraw the LUCS.  The Court issued a stay, meaning the County cannot continue to assert that the proposed vertical expansion satisfies County land use law until there is a full hearing on the matter.  WM responded with a motion to "quash" (throw out) STDC's suit.  That motion must be decided before the Court can hold its hearing.  The Court will consider the motion to quash in April.

There are at least three glaring flaws in the County's reasoning that should require the County to withdraw the LUCS.  They are:

1.  County Planning Director Ken Friday relied on a 1991 memo by former County Counsel John Gray that laid out the rationale behind the "footprint" argument.  Gray argued:

"It is our opinion that the proposed elevations and final grade reference in the DEQ letter are permitted uses which do not require site design review. We believe that the original 1980 plan amendment and zone change for the landfill contemplated the natural and progressive development of the landfill cells. Further, the county's action did not restrict elevations. In our opinion, issues related to the safety or appropriateness of elevations and final landfill grades are technical engineering issues properly addressed by DEQ in its review of the operations plan for permit renewal."

The problem with this logic is that the County Commissioners changed the rules in the very action they took in reliance on Gray's memo.  In Board Order 92-280, adopted in 1992, the Commissioners did indeed approve a LUCS for the landfill.  But they also directed County staff to prepare amendments to the County Zoning Ordinance that would make "future solid waste permit renewal applications subject to Site Design Review to the extent that the applications propose expansions, increases or enlargements of the following aspects of landfill operations...:  a. Volume control...c. Height of cells and final cover...."

Indeed, landfill expansion is now subject to site design review.  Gray's opinion no longer applies.

2.  Gray's memo has become irrelevant for a second obvious reason.  When he wrote back in 1991, the landfill was located in the Public Works Safety (PWS) zone, which had its own rules for site design review.  Now, however, the landfill's zoning has been changed to Exclusive Farm Use (EFU), a zone with markedly different requirements.  Gray's opinion relied heavily on the fact that Riverbend was zoned PWS before the Zoning Ordinance required site design review in that zone.  But Riverbend was zoned EFU with the specific proviso that the "maintenance, expansion or enhancement" of the dump "must satisfy the standards set forth in ... Site Design Review."

As noted above, landfill expansion is now subject to site design review.  Gray's opinion no longer applies.

3.  Even more significant, however, is the fact that adding waste to the landfill via a vertical expansion is currently under consideration by the Oregon Court of Appeals (COA).  The expansion WM proposed in 2014 was both vertical and horizontal.  Both aspects were challenged by neighbors, County businesses, and concerned citizens.  Whether the County has, or even can, approve a vertical expansion is very much in question.

The COA gave itself extra time to decide the landfill case, and no one knows when a ruling will come down.  If the COA decides the County must reconsider its approval of the vertical expansion, then STDC contends that the LUCS must be withdrawn.

In the meantime, STDC has asked DEQ to withhold approval of the vertical expansion so long as the LUCS issue remains "up in the air."

UPDATE:  STDC and its partners have asked the Circuit Court to compel the County to produce the materials WM submitted in support of the LUCS.  So far, only a single diagram has materialized.

Friday, January 13, 2017

First Federal Community Voting Opens

Vote for Waste Not of Yamhill County!

Every year First Federal Savings and Loan asks customers to vote for the nonprofit organizations they think contribute the most to quality of life in Yamhill County.

Organizations receiving at least ten (10) votes receive a donation from First Federal.  The bank has a long history of supporting Yamhill County organizations, giving more than $2.4 million to County charities since 1999.  First Federal has pledged to distribute $40,000 in this year's voting.

You can support the Stop the Dump effort by voting -- for Waste Not of Yamhill County.

The Stop the Dump Coalition was originally known as Waste Not of Yamhill County, and that is how the organization is listed on the ballot.  "Stop the Dump" more closely communicates the organization's mission, so the name was changed.  Waste Not has received a donation every year it has appeared on the First Federal ballot.

Every dollar Waste Not/Stop the Dump receives pays for legal advice and expert scientific analysis to guide the fight to keep Riverbend Landfill from expanding.  For example, Riverbend's most recent attempt to add 29 acres to the landfill and creep closer to Highway 18 is currently on appeal in the Oregon Court of Appeals, led by Stop the Dump attorneys -- who have also taken the County to Circuit Court for issuing a Land Use Compatibility Statement for another expansion atop the existing dump, even though that issue is part of the Court of Appeals case.  Meanwhile, Stop the Dump's hydrology and seismic experts are reviewing the landfill's current and potential impacts on river and ground water quality.

This is an easy way to support the Stop the Dump effort.  If you have an account with First Federal, you are eligible to vote.  If you did not receive a ballot in the mail, ask for one at the bank!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Hazelnut Grove Near Dump Contaminated

Schmidt Farm hazelnuts have been contaminated with Salmonella Typhimurium, according to Oregon Live and the Salem Statesman Journal.

This type of salmonella can make people who eat the nuts ill. According to the two news sources, "Most people who get salmonellosis become sick in one to five days after exposure. Salmonellosis can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps that can last up to seven days. Most people recover without treatment, but in some cases the diarrhea is so severe hospital care is needed."  Death can also result but is rare.

People who bought nuts this fall at the farm stand on Highway 18 are advised to throw them away.  Schmidt Farm nuts processed and sold elsewhere appear not to be affected.

The Schmidt Farm's hazelnut and walnut groves lie directly across Highway 18 from the entrance to Riverbend Landfill.  The farm is widely believed to be the unnamed farm mentioned frequently in the dump's expansion application as experiencing no adverse affects from its proximity to the landfill.

While the source of the salmonella outbreak has not been determined, nuts and other crops can be contaminated by contact with birds, including seagulls, carrying salmonella.  The hundreds of seagulls and other birds that visited the landfill this fall could well carry salmonella from rotting food and animal corpses across the street to the Schmidt Farm orchards.

Alternatively, trucks dumping waste at the landfill could carry the organism away on their tires.  Neighbors and commuters have long complained about the dust that accumulates at the landfill entrance to be kicked up by passing vehicles.  The hazelnut and walnut trees along the highway are in the path of these dust clouds.

For more information about the health hazard posed by salmonellosis, check the Oregon Health Authority website.