By editorial board • 

Clear end-point finally emerges in protracted Riverbend saga

Riverbend Landfill’s nearly decade-long expansion campaign is rapidly approaching the make or break point.

That message was driven home with unmistakable clarity earlier this week, when parent Waste Management Inc. announced plans to reduce the flow of incoming garbage and increase the space available to accommodate what remains. Doing so pushes the fill date on the landfill’s currently permitted footprint into 2019, thus buying more time for ongoing legal and regulatory action.

The 87-acre fill was originally projected to reach capacity in 2014. Waste Management won the right to build a 20-foot berm along the highway, but at the current rate, the additional capacity will be exhausted out by April.

Meanwhile, the Court of Appeals isn’t expected to rule on the expansion plan’s latest 17-acre incarnation until late December. A legal victory there would surely be appealed to the Supreme Court, eating up at least two more months. And even if it succeeded on both fronts, the company would still need to invest additional months securing a state Department of Environmental Quality permit.

To buy more time, Waste Management plans to temporarily divert about 250,000 tons of annual Newberg and Metropolitan Portland waste to its massive Columbia Ridge Landfill, cutting the annual flow into Riverbend to a more manageable 300,000 tons.

The move means shipping waste almost 150 miles upriver, but to preserve its customer base, the company has agreed to absorb additional expenses.
Waste Management also plans to re-contour the three oldest cells at Riverbend — clay-lined cells 1, 2 and 3 on the river side, which have settled significantly since first filled in the 1980s. A steeper gradient would allow them additional capacity without raising the landfill’s height or compromising its magnitude 9 earthquake resistance, the company says.

Beyond that, the company appears to be totally out of options.

It once considered building a berm along the river side, matching the one on the highway side, but environmental concerns made that a non-starter. And newer, better-lined landfill cells haven’t settled enough to make them viable candidates for re-contouring.

Consequently, this long-running drama finally has a clear and convincing end date — the spring of 2019. By then, Waste Management will either be moving into its final 10-year run at Riverbend, where operations commenced in 1983, or initiating the decommissioning.

Either way, we think we speak for the majority of local residents when we say that promises to come as a great relief.


E.J. Farrar

Isn't it time for our community to start planning for life after Riverbend? I know there are those that believed it would just grow ever wider and higher, but the rest of us knew its days were numbered. Now is the time to start figuring out what comes next.

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