Council hears from anti-dump groups
Testimony to the council preceded, by two days, Thursday’s vote by Yamhill County commissioners to approve a zone change needed for expansion of Riverbend Landfill (see story, Page A1).
Two groups gave presentations to the council -- Stop the Dump, which opposes the expansion of Riverbend, and Community Rights, a local chapter of a statewide association that advocates on a variety of issues. Local members said they chose to focus on Yamhill County’s landfill debate first.
The council also heard a report on the city’s annual financial audit, which came back clean, and, in its role as an urban renewal agency, appointed the members of an advisory committee.
Community Rights members told the council that focusing on how to eliminate or drastically reduce the amount of solid waste sent to landfills and incinerators would create jobs, decrease pollution and eventually have a widespread impact on many different issues. A number of American cities are pursuing the goal of becoming “zero waste,” they said, and several have considerably reduced the amount of waste diverted from landfills. They cited San Francisco at 77 percent diversion, San Diego at 68 percent and Eugene at 61 percent.
The group said that most cities define “zero” waste a bit more broadly, as a 90 percent diversion rate.
Just removing food from the waste stream through composting, they said, would make a significant dent. They noted that Recology, the company handling McMinnville’s garbage service, has experience with such a project.
In San Francisco and San Mateo counties, residents are encouraged by Recology to include food scraps, and paper or cardboard food and beverage containers, in their yard waste carts for composting.
The Community Rights group’s five-year-vision for McMinnville included achieving an 81 percent waste diversion rate, and building an indoor composting facility at Greenlands to minimize odor problems. They envision solid waste still being sent to Riverbend Landfill as being compacted and sent to Coffin Butte landfill outside Corvallis.
The group also noted that Linfield College has hired former student Duncan Reid for a new position, sustainability coordinator, with work begun on a zero-waste goal. Reid said he would like to work in partnership with the city.
Group member Liz Marlia-Stein said the organization is asking the city to conduct a “waste audit,” establish a committee to oversee the project of moving toward zero waste and establish a goal of having a working plan in place by the summer.
Group member Ramsey McPhillips told the council that McMinnville could legally request a “host fee” of a $1 per ton of garbage sent to Riverbend, and urged the council to do so.
“If you wanted to hire a consultant” to pursue the zero waste goal, McPhillips told the council, “here’s your funding mechanism.”
Transfer station discussed
If Riverbend Landfill were to close, the group said, the community would need a local garbage transfer station, most likely established by Recology.
One councilor asked whether a garbage transfer station would cause odor problems. Stop the Dump member Brian Doyle said he doesn’t believe it would, noting that he has not heard of odor problems with the Newberg transfer station, run by Waste Management.
“At the landfill, the problem is that the garbage is sitting there rotting,” he said, rather than immediately being sorted and shipped out.
Stop the Dump members told councilors that other communities would be unlikely to ship their already-sorted garbage to a McMinnville transfer station. They said the Portland Metro area has a 20-year contract with Waste Management, set to expire in 2019, that guarantees Waste Management receives 90 percent of Metro’s waste. Before Waste Management bought Riverbend Landfill, the group said, it shipped most of that waste to Arlington. Today, waste from Portland comprises about 45 percent of garbage brought in to Riverbend, according to Waste Management.
The group noted that garbage hauling rates are determined by local jurisdictions in conjunction with garbage hauling companies, not by the landfill, and observed that neither the city nor the county uses a competitive bid process to select Recology.
“That may have made sense when the company was locally-owned,” group member Susan Watkins said, but she argued that it no longer does, since Recology is an out-of-state corporation. “Other companies might love to bid,” she said.
Watkins also argued that the roughly 20 jobs estimated to be lost if Riverbend landfill closes could easily be offset with efforts to increase recycling.
“Studies have consistently shown that efforts to recycle and divert waste create 10 times as many jobs as landfills,” she said.
The group told the council that odors from the dump already are causing significant problems for local businesses, citing concerns from the International Pinot Noir Festival, and from William Henry Knives CEO Dave Boeckel.
“Already, hospitality business owners and wineries have documented the loss of event bookings and the loss of accommodation reservations specifically because of the odors and ‘unsightliness’ of Riverbend,” group member Susan Meredith told the council.
County committee criticized
The county Solid Waste Advisory Committee, a body mandated by state law, also came in for sharp criticism. Former longtime member Brian Doyle said “it’s primary purpose is planning,” but added, “it no longer does that.”
Doyle said, “At one time Dyke Mace was the county solid waste coordinator who provided credible advice and direction to the SWAC. Since Dyke’s death, Sherrie Mathison has provided competent administration, but no vision beyond maintaining the status quo. So SWAC has not provided any planning for landfill closure, alternative waste management or waste reduction beyond that resulting from routine recycling programs ... Since SWAC is not proactive, solid waste management and planning in Yamhill County is determined entirely by existing practices, and any changes are introduced by the the two companies that collect and dispose of waste in Yamhill County.”
Doyle also criticized the group’s makeup, saying that “of the seven members, two are from the waste industry, and three or four others have no significant knowledge of waste management.”
The citizen group also cited concerns over failure of the earthen berms, or retaining walls, that are intended to prevent the landfill’s contents from sliding into the Yamhill River in the event of a major earthquake.
The berms are not constructed to withstand an earthquake of the severity predicted for the area, the group noted. If they did fail, both groups said, heavily polluted water likely would flood neighboring properties and contaminate area wells.
The council took no action on either presentation, reminding members that it has no jurisdiction over the decision whether to allow Riverbend Landfill to expand. It has, however, set a goal of providing city input to county commissioners on the subject.