A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Landfill hearing goes on for four hours

Written November 3rd, 2021 by Hasso Hering

This is the road that would be closed and covered by garbage if the Coffin Butte Landfill is expanded as planned by Republic Services.

The proposed expansion of the Coffin Butte Landfill occupied the Benton County Planning Commission for four hours on Tuesday night. It was a public hearing, but the public didn’t get to speak till a quarter to 10.

By the time public testimony ended for the night, at 11 o’oclock, 14 people had told the commission why they thought the addition of a new waste disposal area totaling 49 acres was a bad idea. But more had signed up to speak at the virtual session on the GoToMeeting platform, and they’ll get the chance when the commission meets the same way again on Nov 16.

The opponents, many of them living in the Soap Creek Valley west of the landfill, made many points about the effect the dump’s expansion would have on them and the environment of the area. The most powerful, in my opinion, was that the proposed closure of Coffin Butte Road would put an “undue burden” on people who use this road to go anywhere and go home again.

For them it’s the safest way to commute, especially when Tampico Road, hilly and narrow, becomes dangerous because of snow and ice. It’s also the shortest route to take if families have to evacuate the area because of wildfire or some other emergency.

Another of their points: Coffin Butte Road is a public asset on which the county has spent money over the years, and it should not be given to a private company to be covered with trash a couple hundred feet high.

It’s not the function of this story to recite all the objections people brought up. If you want them, find the recording of the session on the Benton County website. But the road issue dominated the discussion.

The county planning staff had suggested a number of conditions if the county allows the expansion, among them that Republic Services, which operates the landfill, pay for widening and strengthening Tampico Road from near Soap Creek Road to Highway 99W, and also for improving Wiles and Robison Road northwest of the dump as an alternative evacuation route.

Republic objected to that plan. Instead, it wants to leave Tampico Road the way it is and improve the Wiles-Robison route.

After the Nov. 16 session to hear more testimony, the commission agreed to keep the record open to receive a study on landfill noise from Republic. Then it plans to deliberate and decide on the conditional use permit for the expansion on Dec. 7.

Whether that will be the end of this controversy, we’ll have to wait to find out.. (hh)

The Benton County Planning Commission and staff at the start of Tuesday’s landfill hearing.


8 responses to “Landfill hearing goes on for four hours”

  1. CHEZZ says:

    I live just East of the dump near Fir Grove. Have been here 42 years. The smell/stench out of the dump has increased over the years, even to the point of having to leave my home for health reasons. I am not alone.

  2. Don says:

    Did those who objected have any ideas on what to do with their waste?l

    • Greg S says:

      They are not talking about just our waste. If the waste were coming from just Benton County we would not be facing this problem. They are taking waste from many surrounding counties who do not want to deal with this problem themselves.

    • Doug Pollock says:

      If the landfill were only taking OUR waste (i.e., from Benton Co. citizens), as it was originally intended and approved, it would have enough capacity to last more than 110 years. As one neighbor noted, this is a crisis of Republic Service’s making. They have decades of capacity already available if they’d choose to use the quarry cell to the west. They don’t want to do that because they have a financial incentive to let Knife River (another big company that has worked to monopolize the local rock supplies resulting in a doubling of rock prices) keep operating the quarry. In 2003, the landfill operator estimated they had 73 years of capacity at their current rates. Since then, the volume of waste going to the landfill has grown exponentially. This was no accident, but a result of the company maximizing their profit. The county commissioners should have negotiated a franchise agreement that limits waste from other counties (e.g., by charging a SIGNIFICANTLY higher rate). They could have capped the yearly capacity, but instead have put a clause in the agreement that will REMOVE the capacity if the conditional use permit is approved. The commissioners and county staff clearly have an agenda and are working to support approval of the CUP.

  3. Rich Kellum says:

    Don, I get the NIMBY argument, both for and against, but really? Are you suggesting that someone who lived there before the dump was allowed should just put up with it because we want a place to put our garbage that is far away from us? How about your yard??? it is far away from us, and you can get the stench.

  4. Joel Geier says:

    The meeting could have been a little shorter, or we could have heard from more members of the community, if Republic’s representative would have spent less time talking about how she prides herself on “listening to the concerns of the community.”

    It was very disrespectful to the 35 Benton County residents who signed up in advance and had to wait for hours for a 3-minute chance to talk. And only 7 or 8 of us got a chance in the end.

    The chair warned Republic’s representatives in advance that they were supposed to stick to topics relevant to the proposal. But their first one went ahead and gave 10-15 minutes of corporate happy-speak about how much they care, all the while showing that they really don’t care at all. Kudos to the Chair for finally cutting her off.

  5. Bill Kapaun says:

    Anytime you have a representative for Republic Services testifying, they should be strapped to a lie detector.

    How many people in Albany have been able to switch to a smaller garbage container since they started 2X week yard waste? Not many, because they don’t have smaller containers available! One of the many lies our City Council eats up so they can get that extra bit of FRANCHISE TAX MONEY. They make us pay $3 so they get $0.15? Or do they get even more?

  6. Abe Cee says:

    So apparently the citizens of Benton County would rather have taxes increased than have the dump expand to get the county some additional revenue? Interesting.


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