On March 12th, 2008, 23 Master Recyclers took a field trip to the Columbia Ridge Landfill (CRL) in Arlington, Oregon. Sue Barrett (Class 35) shared her notes.
Waste Management owns both a hazardous waste and a municipal landfill there. The area is surrounded by hills dotted by 365 foot tall white wind turbines. Metro trucks over 85 loads of 49 tons each, per day. Seattle sends 3500 – 4000 containers per month by rail. They also service other cities in WA, OR and ID, as well as the 1800 local Gilliam County residents.
Sam, Mike and Joe are environmental engineers that monitor the conditions of the landfill, the leachate, and the methane gas produced. They gave us a great tour and were very gracious in answering our many questions.
Columbia Ridge Landfill is the largest in the Northwest, and one of the top 10 in the US at 750 acres with 260 acres currently active. They began designing it, getting permits and construction in the late 1980’s as the St. John’s landfill was closing. After it was already in use, in 1993 the first federal rule to regulate landfills took effect. Amazingly only hazardous waste was regulated by the original 1980 RCRA rules. The municipal landfill was designed with best practices gleaned from the problems in the past. Those problems were primarily water source contamination from seepage – it will cost billions to clean up those old landfills. We learned not to site them near rivers, earthquake faults, or airports (birds that hang out at landfills tend to be a problems for airplanes.)
In Contrast to the old Portland area landfills, CRL is geologically stable on top of no faults and with a water table at least 200 feet deep and only 9 inches of rain a year.
They employ about 200 workers and have maintenance for the rail and truck containers there on-site. They also employ the local prisoners to cleanup the paper, plastic bags and other trash that gets blown off the landfill as they are dumping and spreading it. They plan to fill the landfill to 300 feet. It does compact and settle: 90% of the settling occurs in the first 3 to 4 years.
They estimate they will fill this entire municipal landfill in 112 years. The space was impressive. The trucks and massive windmills were dwarfed by the expanse of the landfill itself.