Riverbend kicks off town halls

By Ossie Bladine Of the News-Register 2/29/12

Representatives of Waste Management Inc., Houston-based owner and operator of McMinnville's Riverbend Landfill, met with community members Tuesday night to open a line of monthly dialog on landfill developments.

"We want to be as transparent with the community as possible," said Paul Burns, director of operations for Waste Management-Pacific Northwest, in kicking off the series of monthly meetings.

The focus Tuesday was the design and implementation of a new user-friendly recycling center at the landfill, expected to run about $1 million.

Burns, acting as an interim manager since longtime manager George Duvendack moved to a larger landfill in neighboring Washington, said Riverbend is not looking to compete with Western Oregon Waste's public recycling center in McMinnville. "Our vision is that we'll have a similar number of vehicles coming in each day," he said, referring to present volume.

The site design presented to the county planning department for review earlier this month calls for a new entrance, new scaling section and new shop, located behind the main offices.

Of the about 570,000 tons of waste dumped at the landfill last year, about 10,000 tons came via private citizen drop-offs, Burns said. He said commercial waste and residential trash picked up at curbside accounts for the rest - the vast majority.

Burns said the main goal of the recycling center is to whittle down that 10,000 tons by encouraging people to recycle more and dump less. He said the landfill will continue to allow members of the public to dump a load free of charge if they cull the recyclables out first.

However, some members of the audience said that was not a sufficient incentive. They said the landfill should agree to cull the recyclables from incoming trash on its own.

Burns said that's not realistic in the short-term, but could be in the long-term.

He conceded that much of the material dumped by individuals could probably be diverted, and that the landfill's parent Waste Management could to a better job of fostering greater public awareness about that.

"We need to continue to change and make that better," Burns said. "We're not there today, as a society. We have to continue to improve."

"People need to learn that almost everything that is thrown out can be used for something else," said Ilsa Perse, president of landfill expansion opponent Waste Not of Yamhill County. She said the proposed recycling center "could really be a big project that could truly make a change," but said, "It can't just be water bottles."

Others in the audience had suggestions about elements the center should handle, including batteries, Foam cups or packing materials, ink cartridges and fluorescent light bulbs.

Burns also addressed the landfill's ongoing efforts to expand onto an adjacent tract and erect berms on the present tract to augment its capacity and thus extend its life. And he fielded numerous comments and complaints about odor, which is a huge issue with the landfill's immediate neighbors.

Addressing the latter, he noted the landfill added eight vertical wells and 12 horizontal wells last year to capture additional landfill gas, which it is burning to produce electricity for sale to McMinnville Water & Light. But he conceded no amount of such wells will totally eliminate odor from natural decay processes.

He said, "Is it working perfectly? No. Is it good enough? No. But we're going forward this year with more work to do so."

He said gas management is an ongoing issue. He said Waste Management was bringing in a team of outside experts to help it develop new ways to address it.

The next meeting in the series is slated for March 20 at the McMinnville Senior Center. In the meantime, Riverbend has posted an online survey on its recycling center plans at www.riverbendlandfill.wm.com.

Print This Page