Land | Ecotrope

Would Expanded Landfill Survive The Big One?

Ecotrope | Jan. 22, 2013 12:22 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:27 p.m.

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Waste Management has applied to build a berm along the west side of the Riverbend Landfill to create space for more garbage. Without an expansion, the landfill will likely run out of room in 2014.

Waste Management has applied to build a berm along the west side of the Riverbend Landfill to create space for more garbage. Without an expansion, the landfill will likely run out of room in 2014.

A controversial plan to expand the Riverbend Landfill in McMinnville may depend on its ability to survive a large earthquake.

As I reported last month, the Waste Management landfill is running out of room. It’s within a few feet of its maximum height.¬†But the company’s proposals to expand and keep the landfill open another 15 to 20 years have been stymied by opponents since 2008.

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is in the final throes of reviewing the company’s proposal for a temporary fix: Building a berm on one side of the landfill to create more vertical space for garbage within the current footprint.

Opponents with the Stop The Dump Coalition say the agency should be holding the project to a higher seismic standard. Regulations require that the landfill survives an 8.5-magnitude earthquake, but some Oregon agencies have raised their seismic standard to 9.0-magnitude.

The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission will hear an update on the project’s seismic review at a meeting today, though it won’t be taking public comment on the issue.

Waste Management’s consultants say the landfill meets the state’s seismic standards, and permit reviewer Bob Schwarz of DEQ says his agency’s seismic consultants “generally concur” with the company’s findings. But opponents are pressing DEQ to raise its standards and take another look at the proposal before making a permitting decision.

“When (not if) the Cascadia subduction quake strikes, soils beneath the proposed structure are likely to liquefy, sending 13 million tons of garbage into the South Yamhill River,” the opponent group wrote in a recent letter to the Environmental Quality Commission.

The Oregonian reports the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries sent a letter to DEQ noting that “state-of-practice” in seismic engineering are based on a 9.0-magnitude standard, which is 15 to 18 times stronger than a quake of 8.5 magnitude.

Without an expansion of some kind, the Riverbend Landfill would have to close within the next couple years.¬†Under a contract with Metro, Waste Management would then have to truck garbage to its other landfill in Arlington, about 140 miles east of Portland.

“It would mean we would have to truck waste hundreds of miles away, which means higher transportation costs and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Jackie Lang, communications director for Waste Management.

According to Metro, it would also mean an increase in garbage rates of $1.40 to $1.80 a month for Washington County and northwest Clackamas County.

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