By editorial board • 

An acclamation for reclamation: Time to put a lid on Riverbend

If cats have nine lives, landfills must have 99. At least judging from Yamhill County’s 87-acre, 40-year-old Riverbend Landfill.

As becomes immediately apparent in the name, this local repository of society’s leftovers was situated in just about the worst place possible — a bend in South Yamhill River, which meanders through McMinnville and swallows the North Yamhill before easing into the Willamette.

This is a river that helps water Oregon’s nationally and internationally renowned Oregon Wine Country, so it deserves better. Much better.

What’s more, the landfill’s early cells pre-date the impermeable liners and covers scientific advances have created to contain byproducts of decaying natural and synthetic waste.

No sane person would contemplate repeating such environmental folly today, which goes a long way toward explaining a litany of losing expansion bids dating back to June 22, 2006.

When the state Department of Environmental Quality announced plans to issue a closure permit for Riverbend, it scheduled the requisite public hearing for June 22, 2022 — the 16th anniversary of the campaign’s ill-fated launch.

It seems only fitting to bookend this chapter of local history in such a fashion, as it richly deserves closure at this juncture.

Of course, moving Riverbend from Oregon’s roster of 26 active fills to its 32 closed fills, including Yamhill County’s neighboring Whiteson, would only mark the beginning of another 30-year process.

When landfills quit accepting new garbage and cap their last open cells, they don’t quit producing brews of liquid leachate and gaseous methane, both posing hazards critical to contain. It takes decades of monitoring and management before the decay process plays out, allowing a landfill’s bulging terrain to be reclaimed and repurposed.

Owner Waste Management Inc., the largest waste management company in North America, is still clinging to a thin reed of expansion hope in its public pronouncements.

However, the fact it’s still operating on a permit that expired 13 years ago, and corporate expansion plans have been rebuffed time and time again, that argument has been ringing increasingly hollow.

We don’t see any realistic hope of an expansion earning approval at this point.

Nor do we see any realistic need, for that matter, now that Portland, McMinnville and cities arrayed between have developed alternative disposal options. And we aren’t convinced company officials do either. 

We’ve put up with active garbage dumping on the banks of our leading local water attraction for 40 years. By comparison, active monitoring and reclamation for the next 30 figures to be a veritable walk in the park.

We long ago moved on from Whiteson. It’s time we moved on from Riverbend as well and got out of the waste business for good.

Our forte lies in other endeavors.