Letters to the Editor - Jan. 10, 2014
Landfill decision leaves legacy
On Dec. 28, I stopped in the Harvest Fresh parking lot (Northeast Fourth Street in McMinnville). When I got out of my car, I was greeted by the sour, pungent smell that is the signature of any landfill, notwithstanding that Riverbend landfill is more than four miles to the west and that its permit mandates no pollutants to pass the landfill’s borders.
I next drove 2.4 miles east to WinCo Foods to complete my grocery shopping. Again, when I stepped out of my car, I smelled the landfill. Thoughts of the holiday dinner I was planning were replaced by the stench and images of rotting garbage.
Riverbend is a continuing threat to the health and safety of Yamhill County, polluting the air and the water. It destroys neighboring agriculture and harms the tourism industry of the county.
The decision that Commissioners George and Springer must make on the landfill’s rezoning and expansion has clear and stark consequences for the county and for their legacy as public servants, how they will be remembered by their grandchildren and by ours: as facilitators of an ever-metastasizing toxic cancer or as courageous surgeons who took their scalpels to the problem and began the long process of healing.
Peter M. Gladhart
Compatible with wineries
Thomas Gary was either misinformed or disingenuous when he spoke on behalf of the Willamette Valley Wineries Association at the recent public hearing about the Riverbend zone change. He said that landfills are incompatible with agriculture or wine tourism. “We are among the greatest wine industries in the world, and there’s a landfill in our community,” he said. “There is no landfill in Napa or Sonoma.”
In fact, there is a landfill in Napa and in Sonoma. How can this be? The truth is that people all around the world generate waste, and typically it makes sense to manage waste close to home rather than create unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions and pay extra to ship it hundreds of miles away.
Also, modern landfills can be both inconspicuous and compatible with agriculture and all kinds of agrarian pursuits. Most people never even knew Riverbend, one of my company’s customers, was there until the past few years, and soon much of the main landfill will be closed and covered with native grasses and shrubs.
In Napa, the Clover Flat Landfill opened in the early 1960s, and closure is expected in 33 years, or 2047. In Sonoma County, the board of supervisors recently entered into a 20-year contract with an Arizona company, Republic Services, to privatize operations of its regional landfill west of Cotati.
So I guess landfills are a reality in California wine country, just like they are here. The difference is that Napa and Sonoma have made long-term plans that allow for landfills, agriculture and wine tourism. Now, there’s a concept.
Shawn Rollins, owner
Sweep Rite Power Sweeping, Inc.
Waste Management history
Waste Management wants to expand Riverbend Landfill.
As a community, we need to know more about this corporate partner that has had its way since it came to town. Just how good a deal are we getting? Here’s a little history.
Mobile, Ala., and the city’s Solid Waste Authority believe Waste Management was reporting two different tonnage numbers to authorities, resulting in underpayment of fees to the city. Waste Management sued the city and delayed the requested audit, reportedly in violation of its contract agreement.
According to The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), Delray, Florida in 2010 ordered an audit of its billing system and contract with Waste Management. That happened after a Delray resident claimed Waste Management underpaid franchise fees of $52,989 and received overpayment from the city of $176,000-plus over two years.
Waste Management touts itself as green, yet its annual report lists climate change legislation as a threat to its operations and cash flow. Follow the lobbying money.
CMD reported that Waste Management has owned and operated landfills that are Superfund sites for hazardous waste, and that Waste Management paid $7.5 million without admitting wrongdoing for alleged violations of the Hazardous Waste Management Act and the Clean Water Act.
In 2005, Waste Management paid a $30.8 million fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle a 2002 lawsuit claiming “massive financial fraud” against its stockholders.
We should ask for an audit here.
Landfill’s air pollution serious
At the recent commissioners’ hearing, I expressed my concerns that there was inadequate attention given to serious health effects from air pollution that would be caused by a larger Riverbend Landfill.
I received a copy of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) plan to address the issue of air pollution and am not reassured by it. DEQ has no arm to do more than an occasional check on whether Riverbend is complying with the suggested changes in procedures to decrease the emission of odor and smog-producing sulfur dioxide. On-site emissions are estimated from samples but not really measured as a whole.
There are many other point sources of air pollution, as well as mobile sources. All the trucks carrying waste from outside the county produce emissions, which mix with landfill and other emissions in the air above McMinnville. Diesel emissions from the semis hauling waste to Riverbend contribute to particulate matter and other products of incomplete combustion of diesel fuel, all polluting the air.
Particulate matter, especially the small-sized particles, are shown to have severe negative health effects. They carry all types of other pollutants directly into the smallest air spaces in the lungs, and from there directly into the bloodstream.
If the proposed rezoning is allowed, air pollution will be an increasingly serious problem in our county. The negative effect on the health of our citizens, which would create more jobs for health workers, is preventable.
When Riverbend eventually closes, truck traffic will decrease by an estimated 60 to 70 percent in our county, because the semis hauling out-of-county waste will be gone. This can only improve the air quality in the county and will reduce the negative health impacts caused by the increasing particulate matter and sulfur dioxide in the air.
Susan Katz, M.D.
PR campaign causing fear
F.E.A.R. – these letters stand for: False Expectations Appearing Real.
Waste Management has effectively created a climate of F.E.A.R. in Yamhill County regarding substantial rate increases for businesses and residents if Riverbend Landfill is closed. However, as Alan Ruden stated in his testimony at the recent commissioner’s hearing on the Riverbend rezoning application, the only source of the information generating this fear is Waste Management, the very entity that stands to benefit most from its success. The simple truth is we have been manipulated by their scare campaign into believing that waste disposal costs inevitably will rise with landfill closure. The fact is rising disposal costs are not a given if Riverbend closes.
Hitting people’s pocketbooks is a very effective fear-generating weapon and needs to be seen for what it is: a transparent, self-serving effort by Waste Management to garner support for expansion of Riverbend. However, a recent survey of residential rates in surrounding communities that do not have landfills and where waste must travel many miles farther for disposal, reveals that most pay less or a similar rate to ours. Therefore, the arguments that having a landfill in our midst is necessary to keep our rates down simply are not true.
The long overdue solution is to initiate an open, competitive bidding process for Yamhill County’s solid waste disposal; no such process currently exists. Without any competitive information from other providers we are sitting ducks for Waste Management’s fear-mongering campaign. Get competitive information and get rid of the F.E.A.R.
Support Riverbend zone change
I support the Riverbend zone change. I am a retired, disabled veteran living on a tight budget and a fixed income. I do not want to pay more for garbage disposal. Even an increase of a few dollars a month is unacceptable when it means shutting down a local business operating by the rules and being a good neighbor.
I have attended several Riverbend community meetings because I wanted to educate myself. I left many of these meetings discouraged because of the belligerence from some of the Waste Not people. I think it is fair to say this group is not looking for solutions.
I get involved when I see a need for change. I noticed a lot of bicycles being scrapped at Riverbend. Riverbend management and I forged a partnership.
Used bikes and bike parts are now set aside for me to pick up and repair. Riverbend pays for my supplies, and YCAP distributes the bikes to people who need them. We have recycled 1,350 bikes for use across Yamhill County.
This program works because of the cooperation of Riverbend and Waste Management staff and their concerns about recycling.
I tell you this because I think it shows how one person can make a difference. Just imagine how much we could improve recycling if Waste Not was focused on educating their neighbors with solutions instead of complaints.
Rain total questioned
Regarding “Mac Closes Books on Driest Year Ever” (News-Register, Jan. 3), this is the third year in a row that the newspaper has published annual precipitation data for McMinnville that I believe is open to question.
The article reports that Mac received 22.33 inches of precipitation in 2013, using data provided by the National Weather Service. However, I measured 26.32 inches of precipitation in 2013 in town as part of the nationwide Community Collaborative Rain, Snow and Hail Network. Another network observer, also in Mac, reported 25.12 inches this past year.
Our observations, which are about 3 to 4 inches more than what the NWS reported for 2013, suggest that 2013 was not the driest year on record as the article claims. While it is reasonable to think that a cloudburst at the airport might not also be recorded in town, and vice versa, over the span of a year these differences would be expected to average out so that our annual precipitation totals are reasonably close.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case, and from 2010 to 2013 there has been a marked under-reporting at the airport compared to our measurements in town. These continuing differences have been reported to the NWS but still cannot be explained. Because of this, a reasonable person might be inclined to think that something continues to cause the automated weather station at the airport to consistently under-report precipitation.
Maybe one day the News-Register will consider also publishing alternative precipitation measurements when using questionable NWS data.
Limit government power
Are you concerned about the abuses of the federal government? The government regulates things it has no business controlling. There’s a massive imbalance between federal and state power, and spending and debt are out of control. But there’s hope. We, the people, have a chance to check the runaway train of the federal government.
With all the chaos, confusion and corruption in Washington, D.C., now is the perfect time to challenge the abuses of our federal officials. I believe we can get broad-based support from our citizens. This idea should get the support of Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, Tea Party members and Occupiers.
Article V of the Constitution provides a way for the states to call a convention for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution. Mark Levin has explained the convention of states process in his bestselling book, “The Liberty Amendments,” and now there’s an organization capable of turning an Article V convention of states into a reality. Citizens for Self-Governance (CSG) recently launched the Convention of States (COS) Project with the express purpose of urging and empowering state legislators to call a convention.
Under the COS project plan, this convention would be called “for the purpose of limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.” Only amendments falling under this category would be germane and up for debate.
A convention of states is our best chance to halt the runaway power of the federal government and restore the Founding Fathers’ vision. This will be the most important project of this generation, and I hope you’ll consider getting involved. For more information, you can visit their website at www.conventionofstates.com.
Razzle shouldn’t dazzle us
Waste Management’s attorneys recently submitted a lengthy document to the county to refute comments made by hundreds of citizens who oppose expansion of Riverbend Landfill. The document employs the old trick of trying to dazzle the professor with lots of verbiage to cover up that they can’t answer the question on the exam.
For example, in the Odor Control section, there is a list of systems to mitigate the stink that emanates from the dump. (Spoiler alert: it’s not working.) The attorneys write, “With the implementation of the above, odor complaints have markedly reduced over the 2 to 3 year period, but continue to be lodged from the community.” Which 2 to 3 year period do they mean? There have already been six complaints in the first five days of 2014. The vast majority of people who smell the stink do not file reports because they feel it does no good. Most folks don’t know how to file odor reports, and Waste Management certainly hasn’t explained to the public how to do it.
The attorneys write that the impacts of the landfill “are comparable to impacts from farm equipment and farming practices.” Since the majority of neighbors severely impacted by the dump are themselves farmers, this statement just adds insult to injury.
The attorneys gleefully write that there is a landfill in the Napa winery area of California. But they neglect to mention that Clover Flat Landfill’s footprint is 60 percent smaller than Riverbend’s, receives 60 percent less garbage; is in a steep, dry canyon; is not visible from the road; is locally owned; serves only local residents and plans for a 75 percent recycling rate. In short, it has nothing in common with Riverbend.
I trust that the bafflegab from Waste Management’s attorneys won’t fool the planning department or the commissioners.
Editor’s note: Additional letters were received and may be published next week. The hearing on Riverbend is at 10 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 16. The following is a summary of some other letters on the landfill issue.
Michael McKenney, McMinnville: I am willing to pay a few dollars more a month for my restaurant’s garbage to be hauled to a more appropriate landfill. ... Expansion supporters must not live near it or drive by it every day like I do. ... Let common sense prevail and stop any future Riverbend expansion.
Jim Kreutzbender, McMinnville: Riverbend put on a public relations blitz and lined up leaders to create fear of the town/county dying if there’s no trash dump upwind of Mac. ... I think the “greening” of Riverbend is simply PR for 37 acres of more garbage.
Tony Hartford, Dayton: We don’t want Yamhill County to be the garbage dump for the entire metropolitan area. ... Enough is enough. About the rates? Ours go up in February. Remember to follow the money.
Joe Cassin, Waste Management vice president of business development, McMinnville: Riverbend provides more than $1 million annually for the county, as well as low-cost disposal and transportation for area businesses. ... Yamhill County will benefit from solid waste technology advances because Waste Management is already here.
Dianne Gluskoter, Sheridan: For 10 years, every time we approach Riverbend landfill on Highway 18, we smell the rotten stench. ... “Trash Mountain” has changed the livability of this area. ... We urge the county not to allow the landfill to expand and stay open for decades to come.
Corrections: A letter published Jan. 3 characterized the proposed Riverbend Landfill expansion area as “poor soil” farmland. According to the Yamhill County Planning Department, “The majority of the subject property contains both Class I-IV soils and high-value farmland.” The same letter stated, “Voters approved future expansion of the landfill.” In 2008, voters rejected a ballot measure designed to prevent expansion of Riverbend, but there was no vote specifically to approve landfill expansion.