Senior Staff Writer
The Douglas County Landfill has passed its most recent inspection by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
The DEQ said in a Nov. 30 report the county government is in compliance with its permit to operate the landfill. That’s based on the results of a Nov. 14 inspection. The News-Review obtained a copy of the inspection report last week.
In it, DEQ engineer James McCourt said the landfill had previously been inspected on April 26 and had faced an unannounced partial review on April 12 based on complaints. The complaints mentioned appear to be a reference to allegations by former county commissioner candidate Victor Petrucci. Petrucci told the DEQ that leachate was pouring out of the landfill and into a creek on his property, which is adjacent to and downhill from the landfill; however, the DEQ found no sign of leachate release into the creek during its April inspections.
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In the report, McCourt referred to a March 2017 incident, when “a significant observable leachate release occurred.” County officials have said that happened because heavy rains coincided with a power failure. Without power, a leachate pump stopped working and leachate was released from the landfill. That spill was the subject of a DEQ warning letter.
In his November report, McCourt approved of the county’s current leachate control measures. In the past, leachate was diverted through a series of treatment ponds, which could overflow during heavy rains, but those have been decommissioned. The leachate is currently piped into to a 350,000-gallon tank, where it’s stored until it can be offloaded on trucks and transported for transfer to the Winston-Green wastewater treatment system. Soil and grass have also been used to cover part of the landfill and keep stormwater out, and culverts have been created to divert stormwater away from the landfill. And a backup generator is now available should the power go out.
The landfill’s current life expectancy, according to McCourt, is another 27 years. That means the county will probably have to either create another landfill or begin hauling trash to landfills in other counties by 2045. In the meantime, the county has to provide the state with financial assurance that it will have enough money to cover landfill closing costs. McCourt wrote that the county failed its financial assurance test in 2016, but he said it has since completed the necessary steps to comply with state regulations.
Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice said Solid Waste Department employees, the public works director and the commissioners have worked hard to run a first-class landfill facility.
“Our goal has always and will continue to be operating within the regulatory boundaries that exist. We have a good working relationship with the staff of Oregon DEQ and appreciate that relationship very much. I would like to thank the Solid Waste staff and Oregon DEQ for working together toward the common goal of meeting or exceeding regulatory requirements,” Boice said. “We are definitely heading in the right direction.”