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.  

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Dump de LUCS

While the state Court of Appeals (COA) continues to mull over dump appeals filed by Waste Management (WM -- Riverbend Landfill's Texas-based corporate owner) and the Stop the Dump Coalition and allies, WM has been quietly securing Yamhill County's sign-off on related land-use issues.

Specifically, since the appeals were filed in August, WM has at least twice asked the County Planning Department to sign official statements asserting that the dump complies with County land use law.  At least twice, County Planning Director Ken Friday has signed those statements.

One of the statements, called a "Land Use Affidavit," accompanied an application WM made to the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) and the federal Army Corps of Engineers (ACE).  The application seeks permits WM needs in order to proceed with its proposed 29-acre dump expansion.

The problem is, that expansion is on appeal.  Until the Court of Appeals rules, the County has no idea whether the expansion complies with its land use laws.  Planning Director Friday, who signed the affidavit, apparently tried to hedge his claim by checking the box that says the proposed work will comply when the landfill obtains its site design review and floodplain development permits -- which would of course be "never" if dump opponents win the lawsuit.

The second statement is a "Land Use Compatibility Statement" (LUCS) WM submitted to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in November when WM asked DEQ to allow it to dump 490,000 tons of additional garbage on top of the waste already in place, including in the three original unlined cells.

The problem is, under state law, an existing landfill cannot be enlarged unless the County first finds that the enlargement will not cause a significant adverse impact on local farming practices or costs.  Yamhill County made no attempt to examine this issue before issuing the LUCS.  Moreover, adding waste atop existing cells also is part of the expansion currently on appeal.

It's not clear whether the County Planning Department is trying to mislead state agencies or merely doesn't understand state law.  Stop the Dump has asked its attorney to investigate.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

by Susan Meredith, Riverbend Landfill neighbor
November 24, 2016

Once again, the South Yamhill river is flooding.  The fields next to Hwy 18 southwest of Riverbend Landfill were flooded by Thanksgiving Day.  From my house I can see the floodwaters as they pile up against the perimeter berm at Riverbend, and the river has not even crested yet; that will not happen until tomorrow (Friday) night.  This flooding has become nearly an annual event; in some years the river water rises several times during the same year.  

An important consequence of this flooding is a concomitant rise in the groundwater table beneath the dump, especially in the area of the original unlined cells.  These cells, on the dump's river side, are not lined with the now-required high density polyethylene (HDPE) liners, only poorly compacted soil.  This provides no barrier to the floodwaters, which now will be HIGHER than the lower level of the waste in these cells.

As a result, floodwaters are now, and for the next several days, will continue to "flush through" the decomposed waste in these cells, carrying whatever toxins are in the waste downstream.  Tim Steiber, the former Executive Director of the Yamhill County Soil and Water Conservation District, first pointed this situation out to the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) more than 6 years ago.  The problem was further confirmed by Mark Yinger Associates, the hydrologist who authored the Yinger Hydrology Report on Riverbend in July 2015.

This situation is unconscionable; it impacts every farmer, person, and animal using this river water downstream, and will continue forever because the only remedy is to remove all the waste in these cells and close them off permanently.

Neighbors, the Stop the Dump Coalition, and our allies have repeatedly raised this issue to Waste Management (WM), Riverbend's Texas-based corporate owner, but our concerns have fallen on deaf ears.  WM is not about to do anything about water contamination, and, apparently, neither is DEQ.  What ever happened to "using best practices" as required by the landfill's DEQ operating permit?

Update:  Leonard Rydell, Engineer of Record for Riverbend Landfill during the time Cells 1, 2, and 3 were under construction, has notified us that those cells were not "poorly compacted" as author Meredith believed; the soil lining those three original landfill cells was in fact not compacted at all.  DEQ was aware of this but gave the landfill's owners a pass.

Editor's note:  Contact DEQ (Bob Schwarz at and Waste Management (Nicholas Godfrey, current Riverbend District manager, at to let them know that this situation is intolerable.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanks to YOU!

Even though ...

*  Waste Management (WM) last week asked the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to allow it to dump 490,000 additional tons of waste atop the dump -- without notifying neighbors;

*  WM asked the Yamhill County Planning Department to send DEQ a Land Use Compatibility Statement (LUCS) approving the additional garbage;

*  Both the County and WM are parties to a lawsuit brought by the Stop the Dump Coalition (STDC) and its allies that challenges, among other activities, adding new garbage to old cells atop the landfill;

*  The Oregon Court of Appeals has yet to rule on appeals in the lawsuit;

*  State law, ORS 215.296, requires a County to find that some uses, including garbage dumping, will not force changes in or increase costs to surrounding farm practices before approving those uses;

*  Per  STDC's lawyer, Jeff Klein, "[I]t would be improper to sign off on or transmit a LUCS when [the County does] not have a new land use application before [it] or essentially the same subject matter remains under appeal, much less both. Accordingly, the new application for LUCS must be denied or at least held in abeyance until [the County has] legal authority to process it."

*  The County granted WM's request anyway -- with no notice, no hearing, no findings.

Even though ...

*  We must still continue to fight....

We have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, namely that the 96-acre expansion WM originally proposed in summer 2008 will never be built!

THANK YOU to all the neighbors, businesses, community leaders, County residents, tourists, and visitors who have made this victory possible!  We're almost there!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Pink Martini v. The Dump!

On November 16th, at a Portland concert promoting the band's wonderful new album Je Dis Oui, Thomas Lauderdale of world-renowned band Pink Martini spoke out forcefully against the expansion of Riverbend Landfill.

Thomas asked everyone in the audience who lives in the Metro region to email or call their Metro Councilor.  Tell them, Thomas said, that you don't want your garbage going to a leaking landfill sitting on a river in a seismic hazard zone. 

Metro trash makes up 70% of the waste that comes to Riverbend Landfill -- 70% of the garbage that covers the best farmland in the Willamette Valley, which means in the world.

One impact that Riverbend has on its Yamhill County community will soon be studied by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) -- the horrendous odor.  Riverbend will be only the third odor emitter in the state to be investigated by DEQ since Oregon adopted its Nuisance Odor Strategy a couple of years ago.  Unfortunately, the study is expected to take a full year.

Once investigators establish that the dump does, indeed, smell, then a panel will determine the steps Waste Management, Riverbend's Texas-based corporate owner, must take to reduce or eliminate that smell.

However, other key metrics are not being studied:  (1) how well the landfill will fare when the Big One -- the 9.0 Cascadia Subduction Zone quake -- strikes (some of the landfill was built to withstand a 7.25 quake and some without regard to seismic considerations at all); (2) the affect of leachate leaks on ground and river water; and (3) the full character of the gases emitted by the dump.

The Stop the Dump Coalition has urged DEQ and the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners again and again to look into these matters.  They aren't listening -- but you can ask Metro to listen!  Ask your friends in Washington, Multnomah, and Clackamas Counties to contact their Metro Councilors now!

And a HUGE THANK YOU to Thomas and to Pink Martini!