The dirt on dump trucks
Columbia County is getting its fill of Washington County soil and rocks care of Intel.
Construction began Feb. 14 in Hillsboro on Intel's $6 - $8 billion D1X Fab project, the 1.8 million square-foot expansion of the computer chip manufacturer's Oregon campus, which, once completed, will provide hundreds of new jobs to the region.
Though ground broke more than 20 miles from Scappoose at Intel's Ronler Acres campus, it's hard for Columbia County residents not to notice the near-constant rumble of one- or two-trailer dump trucks driving along the highway, filled with excavated soil from the site. The trucks end up at Scappoose Sand and Gravel where they're unloaded.
For the next several months, local residents and commuters should get used to sharing the road with the trucks.
'The earthwork is expected to take place … through May and potentially into June,' said Bill MacKenzie, Intel's spokesman for Oregon.
The heavy dump-truck activity, which amounts to one truck leaving the construction site every 30 seconds, may creep into July depending on how the next stage of construction pans out, he said.
The company is trying to reduce the number of trips, MacKenzie said. Intel is using multiple trucking companies, which take the dirt and gravel to eight different facilities across the region.
The company is also using trucks to haul dirt to local rock quarries for backfill in order to return with a load of rock for Intel's construction. This allows the company to minimize the number of trips, as well as fuel consumption, MacKenzie said. He added that Intel is also striving to keep dirt and gravel from their trucks from spilling over into neighborhoods.
'Wheel-wash stations and shake-down bumps are installed [inside] the campus to help keep dust and dirt on-site,' he said. 'Improvements to the initial system were made last week and have made a significant, positive difference.'
The dumping is expected to have a positive economic impact on the county. But it's not expected to be as positive as it could be.
Tom Fischer is the president of TFT Construction, one of the several companies hauling soil out of the site. His trucks haul dirt for 12 hours a day.
'This has been a lifesaver and a company saver for us,' he said.
Since the beginning of the year, Fischer has been able to re-hire 15 employees who had previously been laid off. He's even expanded, hiring an additional three employees. Those new hires and re-hires represent a near 70 percent employment increase for the company, which has a total of 26 employees.
He hopes to use the work as a momentum builder for the future.
But at the county level, Todd Dugdale, director of the county's Land Development Services, said the county is missing out on transportation fees associated with the dumping of reclaimed material. Similar to a depletion fee, which relates to material mined in the county, the transportation fee amounts to 15 cents per ton of material brought into the county and dumped.
'[The fee] has become extremely difficult to enforce because if someone brings something into the county, it's difficult to know that,' he said.
County Commissioners have discussed formalizing the ordinance and making it enforceable, but this work has never been completed, Dugdale said.
As it stands, the county does not have the resources to determine exactly how much material is coming into the county.
The county attempted to enforce the transportation fee in 2007 through a short-lived program, which lasted about a year.
'It's one thing to pass an ordinance that seems rational and logical,' Dugdale said. 'It's another to enforce it.'
He doesn't know how much hypothetical money the dumped material represents.
Officials: Trucks not a safety hazard
Scappoose residents such as Hatsumi Park view dump trucks as a danger.
She said she's concerned about the number of trucks on the road and that the soil they're bringing to the county has not been checked for contaminants.
Local officials say there's no need for concern.
Despite the high number of dump trucks on the road, Scappoose Police Chief Doug Greisen said he is not worried about an increase in safety hazards.
'It's not just the trucks [driving unsafely], it's the everyday drivers,' Greisen said
The department has received one call related to a speeding dump truck, said Lt. Norm Miller of the Scappoose Police Department.
And last week, the department placed an officer near Northeast Crown Zellerbach Road, an area where the dump trucks travel to reach the dump site. The officer was placed there to keep an eye on the trucks.
He reported no violations, Miller said.
Greisen said he isn't surprised by his department's findings.
'Going through Scappoose fast is actually really hard,' he said.