Wednesday, January 10, 2018

It's Official: Riverbend Leaks

Mark Yinger, a well-respected hydro-geologist who specializes in landfill hydrology, reported in late December 2017 that leachate is not only leaking from the oldest, unlined areas of Riverbend Landfill but has already impacted groundwater quality at two early detection monitoring wells.

Yinger was hired by Stop the Dump Coalition to analyze the detailed Annual Environmental Monitoring Reports (AEMR) submitted to the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) by Waste Management, Inc., the dump's Texas-based corporate owner.

Yinger studied groundwater tests from two monitoring wells, MW-5A and MW-12A, the closest down-gradient wells to the oldest unlined areas (cells) of the landfill.  Data from these wells indicate that leachate leaking from soil-lined waste cells has impacted groundwater quality.  Moreover, the magnitude of the impact to groundwater is increasing at an accelerating rate.

An earlier Yinger report analyzed AEMR data through 2014. That report concluded that From 1992 through 2014, the concentrations of chlorobenzene and 1,4-dichlorobenzene have not decreased, but have in fact at times increased…. Landfill gas extraction, which began in 1997, has not reduced the concentration of chlorobenzene and 1,4-dichlorobenzene in groundwater at MW-5A.”  These chemicals are "leachate indicators." If they are present at the monitoring sites, so is leachate from the dump.

The new report confirms the earlier findings and notes that "concentrations of the leachate indicators...have increased at compliance monitoring well MW-12A, and by 2016 exceeded site specific concentration limits.... The concentrations of the leachate indicators at MW-5A are much higher than the site specific concentration limits established for compliance well MW-12A."

"Site specific concentration limits" are maximums established by law. DEQ is aware of these exceedences, yet recently permitted Waste Management to pile 500,000 new tons of garbage on top of the leaking cells.

Yinger’s report corroborates the concerns of citizens and Stop the Dump Coalition that effective cleanup will be impossible once the leaks are buried under the additional garbage.  STDC has called on DEQ to halt the addition of new waste until the violations cited by the Yinger report are addressed.

You can ask DEQ to take action. The state Environmental Quality Commission, which runs DEQ, is meeting January 18 in Portland.  Attend or call in (info available from DEQ by January 11) to make your voice heard!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

City Pulls Waste from Riverbend

The McMinnville City Council voted unanimously last Tuesday night to direct hauler Recology to divert city waste from Riverbend Landfill.  Recology has proposed sending garbage from the City's residents and businesses to Headquarters Landfill in Washington State.

The new landfill will not need to expand in order to accommodate the extra garbage as it has a hundred years' capacity remaining.  Riverbend is expected to reach capacity in mid-2019, according to landfill officials.

The change in destination comes with a rate increase, but the amount varies with the volume of waste a household has picked up each week.  Residents can reduce the amount they pay by buying items with less packaging, reusing items, and recycling more, enabling them to use a smaller and cheaper waste container.

Recology can handle the change because earlier this year the City approved construction of a transfer station at its Orchard Avenue site.  Recology can now transfer waste from city garbage trucks to semi trailers for the long haul to Washington.  Previously the city garbage trucks went directly to Riverbend.

The new order will go into effect in January 2018.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

McMinnville Considers Diverting Waste from Riverbend

At 7:00 PM on Tuesday, November 28th, the McMinnville City Council will hold a Public Hearing regarding a change to the way garbage collected from City residents and businesses is handled.

Under the proposed change, the City's waste hauler, Recology, will no longer take waste it collects in McMinnville to Riverbend.  Instead, Recology proposes to haul the waste to Headquarters Landfill in Cowlitz County, Washington.

To comment on the proposal, one can attend the hearing at McMinnville Civic Hall, 200 NE 2nd Street, or email City Councilors and the Mayor ahead of the meeting.  To find out who your Councilor is or to obtain their email addresses, go to

The change will require a proposed 10% rate increase, to take effect in January, 2018. A customer with a $22.00/month garbage bill (which is what at least one small business on Third Street pays) would see its bill rise to a little over $24 a month.

Moreover, as part of the City proposal, Recology would forego the CPI (inflation) rate increase normally due 2018, so the actual increase to customers will end up being somewhat less than the 10% projected.

The proposed destination dump, Headquarters Landfill, is owned by Cowlitz County, Washington.  The County purchased the landfill from Weyerhaeuser in March, 2014, and proposed surrounding it with a community forest to buffer landfill activities from neighbors.  At 380 acres, Headquarters is nearly 4 times larger than Riverbend and has about 100 years capacity.

At the time of purchase, the landfill was said to be "beautiful" and "well-kept" with no "bad smell."  Moreover, the County was treating waste materials that contained hydrogen sulfide to further reduce odors.  However, the landfill is in a watershed that drains into a lake, and nearby residents expressed concern about potential leaks.

Last month, Cowlitz County put the landfill up for possible sale due to changes in Washington State environmental laws that require reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.  Complying with new state rules could cost the County--which makes a profit of about $4million/year from landfill operations--up to $5million/year.  Waste Management--of course--is one of those expressing interest in buying the landfill.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Riverbend Community Meeting Coming Up

Waste Management (WM), the Texas-based corporation that owns Riverbend Landfill, will hold a "community meeting" November 15 at Chemeketa Community College.  The public is invited.

WM is required by the landfill's Title V Air Quality Permit to hold semi-annual meetings to inform the public about activities at the dump that affect our air.  The McMinnville area has relatively clean air.  This means, unfortunately, that industries like landfills are allowed to pollute it.

The waste decomposing at Riverbend emits a variety of gases.  Some of these, like methane and carbon dioxide, are harmful to the environment (both methane and carbon dioxide are greenhouse gases, with methane being about 20 times more damaging than CO2).  Others, like hydrogen sulfide, contribute to Riverbend's horrible odor. Though hydrogen sulfide makes up only about 1% of the gas produced by landfills, it is the primary culprit behind a landfill's foul, rotten egg smell.  Another chemical, sulfur dioxide, is toxic, with a pungent, irritating smell.

Riverbend captures methane to burn, converting it to electricity that is sold to McMinnville Water & Light.  For decades now, the landfill has tried to reduce the odor by capturing more gas with wells and pipes embedded throughout the waste.  Anyone who lives or works nearby (ie, within, say two-plus miles) or who commutes past the dump knows how well Riverbend's efforts have worked:  not at all.

In fact, Riverbend's odor is so bad that the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is currently investigating it.  Yet, the landfill is about to begin installation of "additional gas collection infrastructure," which requires excavation of existing waste cells, allowing even more odor-producing gas to escape.

Come to the meeting to find out how WM plans to "control" odor this time!  Bring your questions about other topics, too, including seagulls (yes, they are back!), the vertical expansion that DEQ just approved (the one that will add a year's worth of waste to the top of the original unlined, non-seismically engineered cells), the recent leak from the leachate holding pond, and so much more!

Title V Community Meeting
Wednesday, November 15, 2017, at 7:00 PM (come at 6:00 for pizza and chitchat!)
Chemeketa Community College
Building 1, Room 105
288 NE Norton Lane
McMinnville, OR 97128

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Just Say No

The City of McMinnville is considering pulling its garbage from Riverbend Landfill.  Not garbage already buried in Trash Mountain, but all garbage generated by the City and its residents and businesses going forward.

This Tuesday, September 26, the McMinnville City Council will hear a presentation from Recology about the possible effects of this anticipated City decision.  Recology (formerly Western Oregon Waste) is the company that picks up McMinnville garbage and hauls it to the dump.

Although Recology is expected to tell the Council that garbage rates may rise (a little) if McMinnville follows through on its proposal to keep new garbage out of Riverbend, the City would actually benefit by no longer contributing to a current economic and liveability liability and a potential environmental disaster on its doorstep.

It would be a huge victory if McMinnville were to just say "no" to sending more garbage to Riverbend Landfill.

If you are a McMinnville resident or operate a business in McMinnville, please attend the City Council meeting!  Tell the Council you support its plan to stop sending your garbage to the leaking, smelly, seismically unstable dump by the river.

WHAT:   McMinnville City Council Meeting
WHEN:  Tuesday September 26th, 7:00 PM
WHERE: McMinnville Civic Hall, 200 NE 2nd St
WHY:     To support the plan to stop sending McMinnville's trash to Riverbend Landfill

If you can't attend the meeting, contact your Councilor at to let her/him know the City should stop sending your trash to Riverbend Landfill.

THANK YOU for your help.  We are making progress!  If you have questions about this exciting new development, contact Ilsa Perse, President of the Stop the Dump Coalition, at