Home Back Issues February 2010 Rural counties depend on landfill business

Rural counties depend on landfill business

| Print |  Email
Articles - February 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Article Index
Rural counties depend on landfill business
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5
Page 6, Reader Comments

Small towns where trash equals cash are increasingly dependent on the huge companies that own Oregon’s dumps.

STORY BY ADRIANNE JEFFRIES // PHOTOS BY GARY OGILVIE
Arlington-Landfill-pushing-garbage_2936
The Columbia Ridge landfill 10 miles south of Arlington takes in one-third of the 6.5 million tons of trash disposed of in Oregon every year. It also provides Gilliam County with jobs and cash.

Arlington, population 610, gets a lot of traffic for a city with no stoplights. Eighty trucks rumble down Main Street daily, circling the downtown on their way to the biggest municipal solid-waste dump in the state.

The Columbia Ridge Landfill is 10 miles south of Arlington, neighbored by a few ranches and dozens of wind turbines spaced generously across the brown, windy plain. If viewed from above, it would look like a huge trash heap being smashed into the side of a small mountain. The sheer size is even more impressive once you realize that half the mountain is underground. The stench is wet and sulphurous.

Six-and-a-half million tons of trash is disposed of in Oregon every year. More than a third goes to Arlington, where almost 20 years’ worth of Seattle’s and Portland’s trash is buried.

Before the dump came to town in 1987, Arlington was in bad shape. The family farms that were the backbone of the local economy were dying, eventually dwindling from 350 to 50. Locals joked that the region’s two exports were wheat and kids, who moved away because there were no jobs.

The nation’s largest waste company, Waste Management, asked Gilliam County if it would be interested in being the “willing host community” for a large regional solid-waste facility. Locals were more than willing after they learned it would bring at least 35 family-wage jobs. Gilliam County Judge Laura Pryor and Arlington Mayor Dennis Gronquist went to bat for the landfill during months of land use hearings, public opposition and media scrutiny between 1987 and 1989 (“We really want Seattle’s garbage,” Pryor told the Associated Press). Most of the resistance during the two-year permitting process actually came from west of the Cascades, where people argued that trash could fly out of trucks on its way from Portland and land in the scenic area of the Columbia Gorge.



 

More Articles

Election Season

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014

We didn’t intend this issue to have an election season theme. But politics has a way of seeping into the cracks and fissures.


Read more...

The Diaspora

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
BY LEE VAN DER VOO

Former newspaper reporters move into brand journalism.


Read more...

Fork & Bottle

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014

National media can’t get enough of Oregon’s pinot noir, artisan-food purveyors and lively, independent film scene.


Read more...

True Blood

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
BY JOE ROJAS-BURKE

Antibiotics really aren’t magic bullets.


Read more...

Semiconductor purgatory

News
Monday, October 06, 2014
roundup-logo-thumb-14BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Intel's manufacturing way station; Merkley's attack dog; Diamond Foods gets into the innovation business.


Read more...

Fly Zone

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY JOE ROJAS-BURKE

The black soldier fly’s larvae are among the most ravenous and least picky eaters on earth.


Read more...

Woman of Steel

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Tamara Lundgren tackles the challenges—without getting trampled.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS