Thursday, May 25, 2017

Metro Dumps Riverbend

Today Metro sent a strong message to Waste Management when the Metro Council voted to prohibit sending waste to Riverbend Landfill after 2019.

Dump expansion opponents have been working toward this day for years and were gratified that the Metro Council voted "to do the right thing."

According to Stop the Dump Coalition President Ilsa Perse, Metro Councilors Stacey, Chase, Harrington, Collette, and Craddick all spoke eloquently about their belief that it was time Metro stopped contributing to current and future environmental issues at Riverbend.  The Councilors acknowledged that landfilling may be the cheapest way to dispose of waste, but argued that cost savings don't make it right to dump that waste at a landfill in an environmentally sensitive location.

Councilor Harrington added that her vote reflected her values.  She stated that her constituents in Washington County do not want to continue using Riverbend.

The new ordinance prevents Metro from sending waste to any landfill that must expand (or be built) in order to accept that waste.  The prohibition goes into effect when Metro enters into new hauling contracts beginning in 2020, but applies to any landfill that expands or is constructed after today.

The Metro Council was convinced that its commitment to a "green" future was in jeopardy if it sent future waste to an expanded landfill, given that nearly 500 years of landfill capacity already exists within easy reach of Metro's boundaries.

Metro's decision may not keep Waste Management from pressing forward with its expansion at Riverbend.  The company is on record as saying that without Metro's garbage an expanded landfill is not financially viable.  However, at a meeting earlier this month, WM's lobbyist told the Metro Council that Riverbend would expand with or without Metro's garbage.  The expansion, of course, is tied up in court.

Perse said Stop the Dump Coalition and its allies "are so thankful for the support of those five councilors."  Stacey especially worked hard to develop information that would convince his fellow Councilors that continued use of Riverbend would undermine Metro's ideals.  These Councilors deserve the hearty thanks of all who want to see Riverbend close.  You can thank them at

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Another Day - And Way - To Stop the Dump!

This Thursday, May 18, the Portland Metro Council will hold a public hearing on Ordinance 17-1401, which would prohibit dumping Metro garbage at Riverbend Landfill.

Metro is the agency that collects garbage in Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington Counties and then sends a hefty percentage of that waste to Riverbend.  Metro prides itself on being "green."  Ordinance 17-1401 targets landfills that must expand or be built in order to take Metro's waste.  The Ordinance is based on the fact that already-existing landfills near Metro hold nearly 500 years capacity among them.

Current hauling contracts end in 2019.  The Ordinance would prohibit new contracts that allow dumping at any landfill that expands or is constructed after May 25, 2017.

Texas-based Waste Management Corporation (WM), the owner of Riverbend, has paid lobbyists to vigorously oppose the ordinance.  WM's hauling contract, which guarantees it gets to haul most of Metro's waste, expires at the end of 2019

Riverbend sits on prime EFU farmland along the banks of the South Yamhill River -- which flows to the Willamette and then on through Portland.  The South Yamhill River contains listed runs of endangered steelhead and salmon and regularly floods. The oldest cells in the dump are unlined, leak, and extend below the winter water table.  Most of the garbage in this leaking, regional dump on the South Yamhill River is from Portland Metro, especially Washington County.

If you live within the Metro boundaries, you can testify at the hearing in support of the ordinance.  Tell Metro that, as a resident of the Metro area, you do not want your garbage going to Riverbend Landfill.  Say you support Ordinance 17-1401 -- in fact, put that in your subject line.  Ask your friends to do the same.

ATTEND THE HEARING IN PERSON:  Thursday, May 18, at 2PM in Metro Council Chambers at the Metro Regional Center, 600 NE Grand Avenue, Portland.

CAN'T ATTEND THE HEARING??   Email your comments to:

Not a Metro Resident???  PASS THIS INFORMATION ON TO METRO RESIDENTS YOU KNOW and URGE THEM TO EMAIL their support of Ordinance 17-1401.

Your email must be received before the hearing!  So send it in right now!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

One Day Left ... To Stop the Dump!

Comments on Waste Management's (WM) proposed 490,000 cubic yard vertical expansion of Riverbend Landfill are due to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in one day -- by 5:00 pm tomorrow, Monday, May 8.

The expansion -- variously called a "side slope modification" or "final grading plan" -- would allow Riverbend to remain open another year while WM awaits a decision from the Oregon Supreme Court on a much larger expansion (29 acres) and Portland Metro debates whether to prohibit its waste from going to landfills that are expanding.

If you don't know much about the proposed vertical expansion, Leonard Rydell, one of the dump's original engineers and surveyors, has neatly summarized the issues (below).  Read and comment!

I have just spent several days reviewing engineering reports and construction plans for Riverbend Landfill.  It should have never grown to 86 acres and 164 feet high. You can Google Earth Riverbend Landfill to see its location, 52% of which is in the original flood plain, and now 350' from the eroding river bank.

•  It is located in a wet climate with 39" of rainfall a year.  This is over one million gallons of water annually falling on each acre.
•  It is located in a flood plain and floodway of the meandering South Yamhill River.  Water laps up to the 5,200-foot perimeter berm every year.
•  If the berm fails (it has been repaired several times), garbage
has only a few feet to go to be in flood waters.
•  It is located upstream of the water intake works for several cities.
•  It is located upstream of water intakes for irrigation of food crops.
•  Riverbend Landfill is located in Oregon’s premier Wine Country, next to a major tourist highway to the Oregon Coast
•  The South Yamhill River is a 303(d) listed river for salmon (ie, the river is in bad shape).
•  The original Cells 1, 2 and 3 are unlined and lack compacted clay bottoms; portions of these cells are below ground water levels. These three cells generated much of the 10,386,725 gallons of leachate collected from Cells 1/5P in 2015. Leachate is contaminated ground water that is pumped out of the landfill and treated.

•  The proposal is to add 490,000 cubic yards on to of Cells 1, 2, and 3 at slopes greater than allowed by Oregon Administrative Rules.
•  The expansion design is based on one earthquake every 2,400 years.  We have had nineteen 9.0+ earthquakes in the last 10,000 years and forty-one 8.0+ earthquakes in the last 10,000 years.
•  Each earthquake of that magnitude will have fore shocks and after shocks at a slightly lesser magnitude.  Japan’s 9.1 March 2011 earthquake had five 7.1 to 7.2 fore and after shocks within a four month period.
•  The proposed design is based on the upper limit of movement in the landfill being no more than 6" to 12", which is the 35-year-old “generally accepted practice in California,” which is prone to slip zone quakes. Riverbend is not is California, it does not have slip zone earthquakes, it has subduction zone earthquakes.  As stated by Chris Goldfinger in a CNN report, “"You're going to have three to five minutes of shaking, and if you're used to earthquakes in California, they typically last 15 to 30 seconds and before you are really sure of what is happening, it is over” and “Cascadia can make an earthquake almost 30 times more energetic than the San Andreas....”  The California standard should not be applied to Riverbend Landfill.
•  Riverbend has no plan or funding to respond to earthquakes or damage from earthquakes.
•  Riverbend generated 39,517,421 gallons of leachate in 2015 (the amount of leachate has increased every year).  On average, a truck load of leachate was hauled from Riverbend to Salem or Hillsboro for treatment every one hour and 20 minutes, every day during 2015.  Funding set aside for leachate management is woefully inadequate; the funding model anticipates the landfill
generating only 296,958 gallons of leachate requiring treatment in 2044.
•  Cities downstream that may be affected are McMinnville, Dayton, Newberg, Wilsonville, Oregon City, West Linn and Portland.

Comments should be e-mailed to DEQ care of Bob Schwarz, Riverbend's permit writer, at by 5:00 pm, Pacific Standard Time, May 8, 2017.  Unfortunately DEQ will not answer your questions before then.  You can, however, ask that your questions be made part of the record.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Stop the Dump Appeals to Supreme Court

The Stop the Dump Coalition and its allies, McPhillips Farms, Willamette Valley Wineries Association, and Friends of Yamhill County, have asked the Oregon Supreme Court to weigh in on whether Riverbend Landfill can expand.

State law bars a non-farm use like a landfill from expanding onto farmland if the expansion will have "significant" impacts on area farms.  In approving Riverbend's proposed expansion, Yamhill County found that the landfill could mitigate any impacts by compensating farmers for any harm to their farms.  The state Land Use Board of Appeals agreed, and last month, the state Court of Appeals (COA) did, too.

The COA based its decision on a new and unique interpretation of state law, holding that the law forbade only those impacts that "will significantly decrease the supply of agricultural land, the profitability of the farm, or the provision of food."  Relying on this standard, the COA ruled that Riverbend could legally buy its way out the law's prohibitions.

In other words, nonfarm uses with deep pockets now have free license to adversely impact farms in Oregon, but cash-poor nonfarm uses do not.

In documents filed today, STDC advised the state Supreme Court that this interpretation of the law flies in the face of long-established land use principles in Oregon.  Lawyers for STDC pointed out that there are at least eighteen other nonfarm uses identified in state law that could take advantage of this "pay-to-play" loophole in the law, from mining to private parks to destination resorts.  If the COA ruling is allowed to stand, each of these uses would also be able to buy their way onto farmland in the state.

As the lawyers state in their brief, "This changes everything."

STDC's brief points out that the legislature considered the pay-to-play option when it adopted the "significant impact" standard.  One legislator, Representative Throop, noted that "We shouldn't be setting up a situation where we're going to be requiring that farms get into compensation with their neighbors.  ...this draft is to prevent those situations from occurring in the first place....  If it was going to have an impact on that farming practice, then that nonfarm dwelling wouldn't be allowed."

The Supreme Court does not have to hear an appeal.  STDC expects to hear whether the Court will take this case within a few weeks.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

New Location for Vertical Expansion Hearing

The state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has reissued the public notice for the upcoming hearing on a permit that would allow Waste Management (WM) to increase the height of Riverbend Landfill.

The new notice moves the May 2nd information meeting and public hearing to the Falls Event Center (aka Evergreen Aviation Museum campus), 510 NE Captain Michael King Smith Way, Main Hall, McMinnville.  A short informational meeting on the proposal will begin at 6 p.m., to be followed by the formal public hearing.

The proposed permit would modify WM's existing landfill operating permit by allowing WM to change the final grading plan for a 20-acre portion of the 87-acre landfill.  If the permit is modified as proposed, WM will be able to add an additional 400,000 tons of garbage to the landfill and to remain open about another year before reaching capacity.  The 20 acres affected include the original three landfill cells, which are not lined and which lie in the floodplain of the South Yamhill River and fill with water each year when the river floods.

A larger, 29-acre expansion proposal remains in the courts.  That expansion would bring a 90-foot high swath of the landfill to within 50 feet of Highway 18 and also cover the original three cells.

To comment on the proposed vertical expansion, you can testify at the public hearing or you can submit written comments for the public record by mail, fax, or email to the Riverbend DEQ permit writer:

Bob Schwarz
Oregon DEQ
400 E. Scenic Drive, Suite 307
The Dalles, Oregon 97058                                       


Phone: 541-298-7255, ext. 230
Fax: 541-298-7330

Written comments are due not later than 5:00 pm, May 8, 2017.