Deschutes County residents want a new landfill, according to a recent survey.

During a Monday work session, county commissioners reviewed a survey that asked about 500 county residents where their future trash should go. They were given two options: transport trash to an existing landfill near the Columbia River, or build a new landfill in Deschutes County.

Nearly everyone surveyed — 93% — said they would prefer the county build a new landfill over trucking trash somewhere else.

“That’s pretty clear,” Commissioner Tony DeBone said.

The survey is a part of the county’s longterm effort to find a new place to dispose garbage. Knott Landfill, where the county diverts all of its trash, is expected to fill up in the next 10 years.

The cost and environmental impacts that come from trucking waste to the Columbia River Gorge were the main factors that appeared to tip the scale toward keeping the landfill close to home, according to the survey.

Cost concerns

About 69% of respondents said the fiscal impact of trucking trash out was either the most important or one of the most important factors to consider. Deschutes County today spends about $35 per ton of trash to maintain garbage at Knott Landfill. The cost per ton at the new landfill would be around $42, said Solid Waste Director Timm Schimke. The increase factors in what it would cost to transport trash up to 30 miles out into the county.

Transporting trash outside the county, however, is estimated to cost between $47 and $62 per ton due to increased and unpredictable transportation costs.

Schimke said the results of the survey weren’t surprising. Informal surveys have shown community support for a local landfill around 80% for years. What has changed, he said, is public opinion around what is considered to be more environmentally harmful.

About 85% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with the idea that trash made here should stay here, citing concerns with emissions, litter and odor from transporting it over long distances. In the early 1990s, when the county was exploring a new landfill, there wasn’t much discussion about the impacts of emissions from trucking over long distances.

“One thing that has kind of changed is that the environmental side was big on: ‘Don’t start a new landfill. Don’t start another potential pollution source when there is hundreds of years of capacity up in the Columbia Gorge,’” he said. “Now, we have more people with an environmental concern that are saying ‘Don’t put 2 million truck miles on the road’ … that has a much higher environmental impact in most people’s minds today.”

What’s next

Before making a decision, the County Commission will review the Solid Waste Management Plan, which outlines project timelines and estimated costs with both plans, later this summer.

Commissioners will then have to vote on whether to build the landfill or ship it out of county. If they vote to build it locally, the county will then work on finding a location and other details.

“(A landfill) hasn’t been sited in 25 years in Oregon. This is going to be a major event,” Commissioner Patti Adair said. “So we have to do it all right.”

While the public appears to be “of one mind” on the issue, Schimke said he expects that once an exact location is proposed that the county will see some inevitable pushback.

“It’s a situation of: Do it here, but don’t do it right here,” Schimke said.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, bvisser@bendbulletin.com

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