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.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Comments Due on Wetlands Permit - Saturday, Dec 17!

The Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) is considering whether to issue a permit to allow Waste Management to disturb wetlands adjacent (yes, adjacent) to Riverbend Landfill in order to construct a road and expand the dump.  Many of us have already commented that there is no need for this road or this expansion.  Please make your voice heard -- click the link below to submit your comment to DSL by 5:00 PM Saturday, December 17!  [The link takes you to a box that describes the project; click Add at the bottom of the box to type your comments in.]

Dear Friends,

Riverbend Landfill is like the energizer bunny that keeps going.  Now, they are applying for a Division of State Lands Permit to fill in wetlands to build a road next to Highway 18.  This road will be higher than Highway 18.

The DSL application states that they need the road to "provide internal landfill traffic, to maintain traffic safety, and to allow private access to an area south of Module 11 reserved for a Green Technology facility."  [Note:  "Module 11" is the major portion of the proposed expansion currently on appeal at the Oregon Court of Appeals.]

There are several problems, the first being that this road leads out of the internal landfill traffic.

Will the Green Technology Facility actually be built?  The Yamhill County Site Design Review approval, passed despite local opposition including from the City of McMinnville, is tied up in court, but that did not stop Yamhill County from issuing a  Land Use Compatibility Statement to the Division of State Lands.

The Green Technology facility is years down the road (Yamhill County said seven, after expansion receives all approvals), but if they fill up the landfill expansion area before that, then they won't have to build the facility at all.

To add to the uncertainty, Waste Management (Riverbend's Texas-based corporate owner) has already publicly stated that while local management would like to build a green technology facility, it is up to corporate management to actually fund the project and there are no guarantees, especially this far away from Oregon's centers of population.

Just what is a "Green Technology Facility"?  What I heard was a facility that takes paper and cardboard and other burnables to make pellets for an energy plant to burn.  There was no mention of a garbage burner at the site, so the pellets would have to be hauled somewhere.  Maybe we should just recycle the paper and cardboard to make more paper and cardboard, instead of burning it.

Is all of this a good reason to build the access road this summer?  Or is there an unstated motive.

The site the proposed road will access was home to Mulkey's RV Park, which made 85 sites available for RV hook-ups.  Waste Management recently closed it.  Gone are 15 tourist sites and 70 affordable long-term sites.  If the proposed road is mainly to support the Green Tech facility, they could have left Mulkey's open another 7 years.

So what is the reason for Waste Management's actions?

I think that they need dirt.

The existing landfill will reach capacity next year and needs about a half million cubic yards of dirt for final cover, but since the landfill is surrounded by water and Highway 18, they can't get it on site.  Even the 27 acre expansion will be boxed in by water and Highway 18.

The dirt they need to close the existing landfill equals 95 acres of farm land mined three feet deep.  The new landfill will need hundreds of thousands of cubic yards more for perimeter berms, daily cover, and final cover.

They certainly cannot get that much dirt out of a 27 acre site and cover it with garbage at the same time.  But perhaps they could from the RV park area and the rest of the adjacent farmland they own, including the Green Tech site.

The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) already gave Riverbend blanket approval for their entire site, wetlands, farm lands, uplands, and lowlands.  Yamhill County doesn't regulate dirt mining.

If you feel that your vision of Yamhill Wine Country (voted the world's best wine tourist location) doesn't include a larger mountain of garbage and more acres of devastated  farm land, please take the time to just tell the Oregon Division of State Lands "NO". 

It takes just a couple of minutes.  Click on the link below, and you can comment on line with no fuss, no muss.

Thank you.

Leonard Rydell, P.E., P.L.S., W.R.E.


Application No. APP-0059053, Yamhill County, Southern Tributary of South Yamhill River, Township 5 South, Range 5 West, Section 1

An Oregon Regulatory project application has been received by the Oregon Department of State Lands for a project at the location described above.
We are interested in your comments on this proposal. The comment period on this application ends at 5:00 pm on December 17, 2016.

You may view the application details on our website at:

You can read and submit comments or download a copy of the application via the web site. You can also submit comments or request a copy of the application by fax (503-378-4844), by phone (call 503-986-5200 and ask for the resource coordinator assigned to this project), or via US Mail.

All comments will be evaluated and carefully considered before making the authorization decision. Copies of the applicable laws and rules are available on the Department's web site.  

We would be pleased to answer your questions or provide additional information. Please do not hesitate to call the Department of State Lands.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Waste Management to Stop Accepting Metro Waste

It's official.  Riverbend Landfill is pulling the plug on waste from Metro.  (Metro is the agency that handles garbage for Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas Counties.)  After years of ignoring citizens' concerns about the leaking, stench-producing dump, Metro appears to be admitting that January 2017 will be the last month its garbage will be deposited next to the South Yamhill River.

Waste Management (WM, Riverbend's Texas-based corporate owner) told Metro earlier this week:

"Because of legal issues and emerging capacity limitations, Waste Management has decided that Riverbend Landfill will no longer be an available option for Metro-area waste for at least the next few months and, potentially, years. WM is seeking to prolong the life of Riverbend until its legal appeals and lateral expansion have been resolved. WM also intends to serve its local, coastal and Willamette Valley customer base while these legal issues are resolved." 

The waste involved comes mainly from Washington County, but represents about 2/3 of the waste deposited at Riverbend in any given month (about 320,000 tons).  If this waste were to continue to come to Riverbend, the landfill would reach capacity around July 1, 2016.  Restricting waste to Yamhill County and coastal areas will add an additional ten months to the landfill's life.

Metro staff interprets WM's statement to mean that "Riverbend will only be available during a transitional period to Columbia Ridge (ending on about February 1).  Riverbend will remain available but only in the case of an emergency or unusual circumstance after February 1."  Metro is in the process of making arrangements to send garbage to either Columbia Ridge or Coffin Butte landfills after that date
Although Waste Management is only now acknowledging that the landfill will have to shut its doors if waste keeps pouring in, that particular bit of handwriting has been on the wall for quite some time.  The Oregon Court of Appeals is currently considering appeals by both WM and landfill opponents of a County-approved expansion.  Any decision by the COA could be appealed to the state Supreme Court, a process that could take years.  Then, should WM win its appeals, it must still obtain approvals from several state and federal agencies.

While Metro develops plans for a more responsible solution to its waste disposal needs, McMinnville waste hauler Recology is moving forward with construction of an advanced transfer station.  A local transfer station will enable Recology to take waste to any appropriate disposal site.  

It is past time for the Yamhill County Commissioners to recognize reality, stop being bull-dozed by the largest garbage company in the world, and start making plans for an environmentally sound alternative to disposing of the county's waste.