Friday, June 30, 2017

Supreme Court Accepts Stop the Dump Appeal

The Oregon Supreme Court this week agreed to review a lower court ruling in the Stop the Dump Coalition's suit to stop Riverbend Landfill's expansion.  The state Court of Appeals had held that Riverbend could expand if Yamhill County Commissioners found sufficient evidence that the expansion would not impose significant cumulative impacts on neighborhood farmers.

After that ruling, but before the Commissioners could act, Stop the Dump, its allies, and other statewide organizations with an interest in preserving farm land asked the Supreme Court to review the COA decision.  They worried that the wording of the COA ruling would put millions of acres of farm land in jeopardy by allowing non-farm uses to impinge on farming activities unless affected farms could show that farming would be significantly reduced statewide.

The Supreme Court has no legal obligation to take every appeal from the COA, so the fact that the Court has agreed to hear this case means that the Court agrees that the issues raised are significant.

Stop the Dump Coalition President Ilsa Perse is encouraged by the news.  In a press release issued today, she wrote:


At last, some excellent news on the garbage front.  The Oregon Supreme Court has just issued an Order Allowing Review of our appeal of the recent Court of Appeals decision that would have allowed Waste Management to harm local farmers, as long as they paid the farmers for the damage done to their farming practice, and their lives. 

We knew that the Appeal Court's and Yamhill County's interpretation of Oregon Land Use law was novel and, we feel, incorrect. It would have serious and detrimental implications for the preservation of Oregon’s agricultural future. If the Court of Appeals decision is allowed to stand, farming in Oregon could be severely impacted by many different non-farm uses that are allowed on exclusive farm use land.  The Supreme Court only agrees to hear 10% of the requests for review that they receive, so clearly they see the importance of resolving the issues that we raised in our appeal.

It is impossible to know if, in agreeing to hear the case, the Supreme Court will decide that the Court of Appeals made the right decision or, we hope, the wrong one.  The Court will not be hearing oral arguments until November, and then it could take a year or two or three to issue a decision,  But no matter how long it takes for the Supremes to decide,  Waste Management's reckless expansion onto 29 additional acres is on hold. 


Monday, June 12, 2017

140 Letters About the Dump!

Paul Burns, trouble shooter extraordinaire for Waste Management (WM), Texas-based corporate owner of Riverbend Landfill, has been instrumental in shaping the dump's proposed expansion in Yamhill County.  Now Burns has taken to the press to get his story out.

The local News-Register printed Burns' version of the landfill's troubled romance with Yamhill County in its Viewpoints section last Friday, June 9.  (You can read the article online here.)

Burns describes the past "nearly eight years" as an effort by WM to work with and learn from Riverbend's neighbors.  He can't go back farther than that because nine years ago, WM proposed a "twice as high, twice as wide" expansion that would have quadrupled the landfill's volume.  In 2008, 135'-high Riverbend was already the tallest man-made structure in Yamhill County (the equivalent of a 13-story building).

The expansion WM proposed back in 2008 would have added an additional 13 stories and expanded the landfill by 96 football fields (99 acres).  "Twice as high, twice as wide" meant a garbage mountain nearly as tall as the Portland skyline, a trash footprint as long and wide as downtown McMinnville, and a smell that would stink up 3rd Street.

Of course, compared to that, everything about the current 29-acre expansion seems puny.

Burns notes:

- the proposed expansion's design "goes beyond" M9.0 (Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake) standards.  But not the existing portions of the dump.

- a "green tech" alternative to an even bigger landfill will be added.  But not for seven years after the state approves the expansion and perhaps not even then; Dave Steiner, WM CEO, told Forbes Magazine last fall that the company was no longer investing in new technologies.

- Yamhill County will lose a strong revenue stream of $1,000,000/year.  But WM paid that amount for only about three years, getting the right to pollute our river and our air for decades for a lot less.  Moreover, the County can levy its fees on trash haulers instead of landfills and collect the same amount without affecting garbage rates.

- WM has made 450 acres surrounding the dump available for "projects that connect to community values."  Although a portion of this land has been put into agricultural production with the goal of generating income for the local food bank, some of the "projects" are 50-year leases that enrich WM.

- the current expansion proposal is "community-driven."  The sole reason WM moved away from its "twice as high, twice as wide" plan was community outrage.  In the past nine years, Stop the Dump Coalition, its allies, and hundreds of citizen activists have raised their voices to protest WM's plans to exploit our County merely to enhance WM's bottom line.

You can continue this tradition of speaking out -- write the News Register a letter today (deadline for Friday's paper is noon Wednesday).  Tell the paper, its readers, and WM what you think of proposals to expand Riverbend Landfill:

PS.  "140 letters" refers to the number of characters in a tweet.  Can we submit 140 actual letters to the editor?  Write now!

Note:  Article updated 6-13-17 to reflect new information about the 450-acre "stewardship" lands.

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.