Landfill gets warning on dumped bags containing asbestos

Neighbors ask county to take action after DEQ warning letter

Howard Grabhorn, owner of the Lakeside Reclamation Landfill near Beaverton, received a warning letter from the state Department of Environmental Quality last week for illegally accepting 60 bags of asbestos-containing material.

It is Grabhorn's third warning letter issued by the state environmental agency in the past three years for accepting hazardous materials at the landfill.

The landfill, which is along the Tualatin River, is also under investigation by the agency for potential groundwater contamination.

No fines or enforcement action were taken against Grabhorn for the recent incident, according to Audrey O'Brien, the environmental agency's solid waste manager for the Northwest region.

'We're comfortable there was not a release of fibers because the (material) was bagged,' O'Brien said, adding that Grabhorn was ordered to remove the bags and take them to another landfill that is permitted to accept the material.

News of the violation further angered neighbors of the landfill who have long argued that the landfill should not be in the prime agricultural valley where it is located, although it existed before land-use rules were written. Last year, the neighbors and the county lost an appeal to the state Land Use Board of Appeals after they tried to restrict the landfill's size.

In a letter sent July 20 to the chairman of the Washington County Board of Commissioners, the neighbors urged officials to try, again, to restrict the landfill's activities, using a franchise agreement they have with Grabhorn as leverage.

'This is not the first incident of this kind,' wrote Art Kamp, whose property on Pleasant Valley Road is next to the landfill. 'Inspections and enforcement are infrequent enough that Howard can wheel out his lawyers, pay a few fines and continue to do what he wants.'

Grabhorn could not be reached for comment.

Both previous violations at his landfill occurred in 2002. One involved the illegal disposal of animal hides, and the other the illegal disposal of putrescible waste. The landfill is permitted to only accept construction and demolition debris. It is one of two landfills in Washington County.

Tom Brian, chairman of the county commission, declined to comment on the letter, and referred questions to county counsel - who referred questions to Theresa Koppang, the county's solid waste management supervisor.

Koppang said nothing in the franchise agreement would allow the county to act unless a violation at the landfill was determined to be serious and of immediate danger to public health, welfare or safety. Barring that, she said, the county relies on the DEQ for enforcement of landfill regulations.

O'Brien said the lack of the release of the asbestos in the bags, which were discovered July 7 by an inspector from the Metro Solid Waste Program, meant the violation would not be referred for penalty.

She said revised policies at the DEQ allowed enforcement of violations only when they create significant environmental impact. In all other instances, those who violate environmental regulations receive a warning letter and an opportunity to correct their mistake. They also must agree to not do it again.