EPA settles with Riverbend Landfill in McMinnville over toxic air emissions

Waste Management, Inc., agrees to pay $104k penalty and make immediate improvements

September 30, 2021

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(Seattle - September 30, 2021) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Region 10 has settled with Riverbend Landfill, in McMinnville, Oregon, for violations of the federal Clean Air Act.  

This settlement is part of EPA’s National Compliance Initiative, Creating Cleaner Air for Communities by Reducing Excess Emissions of Harmful Pollutants and supports EPA’s priorities to protect unfairly burdened communities and address the climate crisis. The settlement includes a Consent Agreement and Final Order (PDF) which requires Riverbend Landfill to pay a $104,482 penalty.  

The settlement also includes an Administrative Order on Consent which reduces emissions by requiring Riverbend to conduct enhanced monitoring, inspection, and tracking measures to find and address landfill emissions.    

The one square mile municipal solid waste landfill and recycling center has an air permit issued by Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.  It has been in operation since 1982 and is owned and operated by Waste Management, Inc.

Under the Clean Air Act, Riverbend Landfill is required to capture the emissions generated as the garbage breaks down.  To ensure they are capturing the emissions adequately, Riverbend Landfill is also required to conduct surveys of the surface of the landfill to see if any gases are leaking at least 4 times per year. This survey involves traversing the landfill using an instrument that measures methane present in the air.  If methane emissions above 500 parts per million are measured, the landfill must take corrective action to ensure those emissions are captured.  

In 2018, an inspection by EPA discovered nine separate instances of methane emissions greater than 500 ppm at different areas of the landfill. When reviewing facility records, it was discovered that the emissions surveys conducted by Riverbend Landfill did not find any areas above 500 ppm between 2015 and 2018, including their surface emission monitoring studies before and after EPA’s inspection. 

Comparing the results from EPA’s inspection and Riverbend Landfill’s surveys, EPA determined that Riverbend Landfill did not conduct adequate surface emission monitoring. EPA also determined that the Riverbend Landfill failed to monitor cover integrity monthly, as required. They also failed to perform required monthly monitoring in an onsite well. Riverbend landfill neither confirms nor denies EPA’s alleged violations in this matter.

Landfills are the third largest source of methane pollution, which is one of the main contributors to climate change. In addition to methane emissions, landfill gases contain Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs).  HAPs emitted by municipal solid waste landfills can include, but are not limited to, vinyl chloride, ethyl benzene, toluene, and benzene. All of the airborne toxic chemicals emitted from MSW landfills can cause adverse health effects provided sufficient exposure.

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