Conditions applied to zoning change a fig leaf that accomplishes nothing
Our Yamhill County commissioners, Allan Springer and Kathy George, have approved a zoning change that paves the way for Waste Management (WM) to continue the growth of Riverbend Landfill.
To their credit they included Condition No. 7 that requires waste recycling through a green technology process. Condition No. 7 is a response to growing citizen objections to Riverbends growth and to the absence of any effective initiative to further reduce our dependence on a dump to dispose of our trash.
But there are major loopholes in Condition No. 7. The green technology doesnt have to actually work or divert much waste from the landfill – a token facility would satisfy Condition No. 7. And no matter how well it works, a large residual waste stream will still be piled onto the landfill.
So Riverbend will continue to grow and the only questions are: How fast will it grow and whether the landfill waste is unsorted garbage or residue from recycling or a green technology.
Perhaps the biggest loophole is that all the conditions, including No. 7, could be changed by a future commission.
Support for landfill expansion rested primarily on economic arguments and testimony that WM has been a good neighbor. While WM contributions to the Stewardship Lands and the Rails to Trails are commendable, would we expect less from a company in WMs position? Especially since WM is profiting handsomely from building Riverbend – a mountain of rotting garbage that is nothing short of a tumor on the land that will be there forever.
Landfill supporters ignored major negative economic impacts and overstated the costs associated with alternatives to Riverbend disposal. The landfill has already rendered unsalable dozens of residential properties in its vicinity. Surrounding farmland is increasingly restricted to non-food crops.
Riverbend is a direct threat to our burgeoning tourism industry, which is of far greater economic value to Yamhill County than the landfill. Wineries and growers were near unanimous in their condemnation of the proposed landfill expansion. All of this and more came out in verbal and written testimony, yet before voting to approve the expansion, one commissioner said shed seen no evidence of the negative impact of the landfill.
Given the alternatives available today, our practice of dumping all our garbage in a pile is irresponsible. This is especially true of Riverbend, built on unstable land next to a river in a wet climate that accelerates stinking gas emissions above and toxic liquid leachate below.
The countys adoption of Condition No. 7 is really a fig leaf rather than a serious move toward advanced garbage management. The county has allowed Waste Management, a much bigger and more experienced player, to set the terms for operation and expansion of Riverbend. The planning department thinks its struck the best deal possible, but I think the countys been hustled.
Brian Doyle is a Newberg resident and engineer