A landfill expansion in Oregon’s wine country

Riverbend Landfill has been operating since 1982

A view of the Riverbend Landfill about 3 miles southwest of McMinnville in Yamhill County, Jan. 5, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
A view of the Riverbend Landfill about 3 miles southwest of McMinnville in Yamhill County, Jan. 5, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Susan Watkins is an attorney and a Christmas tree farmer in the heart of Oregon wine country. She has a much better view of the Riverbend Landfill than she’d like, and she’s not happy about Waste Management’s plans to expand the 85-acre landfill by another 37 acres.

The landfill three miles southwest of McMinnville off Highway 18 has been operating since 1982. It handles all of Yamhill County’s garbage, but most of the trash comes from outside its immediate area and includes Portland metro.

It is near its capacity, operators said.

Susan Watkins is opposed to an expansion of the Riverbend Landfill in Yamhill County, Jan. 5, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
Susan Watkins is opposed to an expansion of the Riverbend Landfill in Yamhill County, Jan. 5, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

But expanding it does not sit well with those who live near it.

“I think it (the expansion) is unnecessary and it’s a bad location for a landfill to begin with,” Watkins, of Stop The Dump Coalition, told KOIN 6 News. “We don’t think that’s appropriate for our wine country and for our tourist trade.”

Neighbor Brianna Pusey lives across the street and shares a similar viewpoint.

“Mixing an area of garbage and filth near an area where you’re trying to grow agriculture or people trying to produce wine and growing grapes, that really doesn’t seem good to mix,” Pusey said.

Jackie Lang of Waste Management discusses the planned expansion of the Riverbend Landfill in Yamhill County, Jan. 5, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
Jackie Lang of Waste Management discusses the planned expansion of the Riverbend Landfill in Yamhill County, Jan. 5, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

Waste Management’s Jackie Lang said there was significant community support for the expansion.

“We’ve been operating in this community for about 15 years,and we’ve known for some time that the existing landfill is very near capacity,” Lang said.

She said they’re setting aside 450 acres of surrounding land for farm uses and green technology as well as minimizing flood plain effects.

And she said she understands those who don’t want it in their backyard, but “we are in a really tough business. Everybody generates waste. Nobody likes the landfill.”

The Yamhill County Planning Commission is expected to make its recommendation and decision by January 15. No matter what they decide, it’s likely to be appealed.

Waste Management hopes to have this expansion up and running by 2017.

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