Submitted photo
Submitted photo

Paul Burns: Riverbend’s story takes more than 140 characters

A provocative tweet can travel around the globe in seconds or land on the front page in minutes.

But for the important civic issues confronting our local community, the conversations rarely fit in 140 characters.

For nearly eight years, Waste Management has worked with landfill neighbors, community members and Yamhill County to develop a community-driven plan for Riverbend.

Our purpose, since the beginning, has been to invest in Yamhill County and provide a critical service for homes, schools and businesses from local and nearby communities. We provide safe and cost-effective disposal, protect the environment and deliver a steady and strong revenue stream for Yamhill County (more than $1 million each year in recent years).

Now, as we wait for the Oregon Supreme Court to decide whether it will hear the Riverbend case, Metro says it will stop sending waste to Riverbend in 2020. This decision, although not part of our earlier thinking, underscores the need for us to be clear about the future: Waste Management remains committed to Riverbend and to Yamhill County.

Our work with local, state and federal regulators is on track and progressing. Here’s the at-a-glance summary:

n The Riverbend plan is for a modest expansion at 29 acres, 70 percent smaller than originally proposed. The design goes beyond requirements to meet the Magnitude 9.0 seismic standard. With this comes 25 acres for green tech jobs (an alternative to a bigger landfill) and the WM Stewardship Lands — 450 acres for projects that connect to community values.

Guest Writer

Guest writer Paul Burnsis Waste Management’s director of disposal operations for the Pacific Northwest.

n On the legal front, all recent court and regulatory decisions have been positive. The Oregon Supreme Court will soon decide whether it will hear the case. We expect a positive outcome, and we anticipate going back to Yamhill County to further address cumulative impacts.

n We have addressed the landfill’s short-term capacity constraints by temporarily reducing the incoming material. This involves continuing to manage waste from nearby communities while diverting other waste (primarily from Washington County) to a disposal site in Benton County.

n To make full use of the existing landfill footprint, we are modifying our final grading plan. It’s common to adjust the final grading as a landfill nears capacity, to make full use of the existing infrastructure. The Oregon DEQ has completed its technical review and hosted a public hearing, as required. We expect a decision in June.

So how does Metro’s recent decision affect this plan?

The loss will be significant to Yamhill County, unfortunately. For years, Waste Management has paid a premium rate to Yamhill County for each ton of waste received from Metro (and all tonnage from outside of the County). Metro’s decision will slash the revenue stream to Yamhill county by an estimated half a million dollars each year.

It also means Riverbend will remain open longer. Our plan was to operate for 10 more years, receiving waste from Yamhill County and the Metro region. Without waste from Metro, Riverbend will have the capacity to operate another 18 years.

So, the path ahead is different than expected, and yet my team is moving steadily forward to protect the environment, provide an essential service and be the best community partner we can be.

Honestly, I doubt my work will ever power a viral tweet. Even so, someone must do the jobs that require the long view – the long-range planning, scientific modeling, engineering, permitting, and environmental compliance in one of the most highly regulated industries in the world.

That’s what it takes to safely manage what people throw away. It’s the type of the work that requires expertise and a long-term commitment that never wavers.
That’s Waste Management’s commitment to Yamhill County.


E.J. Farrar

Recology’s new transfer station could be used as a starting point to convey our non-recyclable household waste to Arlington for a modest increase in cost, further reducing the waste stream into Riverbed to a trickle. Garbage mountain will be closed and capped after Waste Management's profit margin shrivels.


Why did the NR see fit to have Waste Management write this propaganda as a "guest writer?"

Waste Management is a Texas Based Company and Paul Burns doesn't even live in Yamhill County. He lives in Portland. Waste Management doesn't represent Yamhill County's values and the fact that the NR gave them such a prominent position in this issue is troubling.

forgive the pun but this doesn't pass the Smell Test.

I hope the NR will make space for balanced journalism and seek an article from Zero Waste or Stop the Dump Coalition.