Sunday, November 30, 2008

Alert: Baker Sanitary Solid Waste Permit Comments Due Tomorrow

In This Issue:

- About the "Under-the-Radar" Dump Permit

- Sample Letter Requesting a Public Hearing

- Thanks Ahead Of Time For Sending DEQ an Email Requesting A Public Hearing

About the "Under-the-Radar" Dump Permit

The DEQ issued a request for comments on the "Proposed Renewal of Solid Waste Permit for Baker Sanitary Landfill" back around Halloween, and it has been traveling under the radar ever since. I just found out about it this morning because Planning Commission Chair Randy Joseph alerted members of a local support group for small land rich ranchers, comfortable retirees, small business people and government workers (Oregon Rural Action) about it on Saturday morning. Comments are due TOMORROW, Monday, December 1st, by 5 PM.

This should concern people in Baker County because a large regional landfill has major impacts to people and the rest of the environment. Baker Sanitary has been cited in the past for non-compliance on permitting, maintenance, and for failure to properly monitor pollution of ground and surface water for possible cancer causing chemicals. The current requirements allow them to continue to monitor themselves for health endangering pollution, a strategy that is fraught with potential dangers. Contaminated ground and surface waters could conceivably end up in local drinking water wells and in the Sutton Creek drainage which ultimately ends up in the Powder River before it enters Baker City, on its polluted route to Richland and the Snake River.

A brief scan of the available documents shows that the actual plans will be submitted after the permit has been issued, so we have little indication, from the provided documents, what the scale of this dump is going to be. Right now, we are already on the receiving end of out-of-county garbage, including large quantities coming from La Grande.

The documents also do not require any improvement in garbage container sizing/rate restructuring or recycling opportunities for local citizens, nor do they include any other benefit in return for allowing a large, privately operated, local monopoly dump to operate on our doorstep. Costs to our quality of life, like water and air pollution, increased traffic, etc., are externalized for us to bear, while the wealth created by the dumping of thousands of tons of garbage goes largely to the private trash industry.

As large a problem as an expanded doorstep dump may be, there is perhaps an even larger one that really puzzles me. How did it come to be that normally concerned individuals are just finding out about this one or two days before comments are due? That is obviously not enough time to respond to a 46 page permit document, a 5 page report, and the original 3 page announcement.

Randy Joseph is the Chair of the County Planning Commission. Are we to believe that the Commission and its chair are just finding out about this? What about the County Commissioners? Do they think we just don't care? The City seems concerned about the effects on City charm of having a large transmission line in the nearby viewshed, about how we maintain our property, and about how we burn or dispose of our trash; don't they care about improved recycling or the negative impacts of a massive trashpile right down the road? Why haven't either the Herald or the Record Courier put this on the front page? I could not find a single article in either paper. I realize how important articles glorifying ranchers, showcasing mainstreet, and paying tribute to a militarist culture are, but you'd think they'd have found room in there among these articles for something about the public's opportunity to comment and list their concerns about an expanding dump in their back yard.

What can we do???

According the the DEQ announcement:

"DEQ will schedule a public hearing if one is requested by 10 or more people, or by an authorized person representing an organization of at least 10 people. An additional public notice will be published to advertise the public hearing." (Sample letter below.)

It looks like ORA is going to request such a hearing. In case they don't, or simply to help in that effort, 10 of us can send in individual emails requesting a public hearing in the matter of the:

Proposed Renewal of Solid Waste Permit for Baker Sanitary Landfill and Proposed Issuance of Solid Waste Permit for an On-site Household Hazardous Waste Facility

You can send the request and any comments via email or fax to:
John Straughan, Environmental Engineer
(541) 278-4611 or 1-800-304-3513
700 SE Emigrant, Suite 330
Pendleton, OR 97801
Fax: (541) 278-0168
Email: John Straughan
That is

An email is all it takes. Additional help can be sought from other groups, such as Hells Canyon Preservation Council. They too can ask for a public hearing. Send or copy the email to:
Greg Dyson, Executive Director

Sample Letter Requesting a Public Hearing

Here is my email to DEQ requesting a public hearing. You can use it as a template for your own comments or simply cut, paste and change the name and address to your own.

November 30, 2008

Christopher Christie
1985 15th Street
Baker City, OR 97814

John Straughan, Environmental Engineer
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
(541) 278-4611 or 1-800-304-3513
700 SE Emigrant, Suite 330
Pendleton, OR 97801
Fax: (541) 278-0168

Dear Mr. Straughan:

Just this morning, I became aware of DEQ's public permitting process for the Proposed Renewal of Solid Waste Permit for Baker Sanitary Landfill. I can not recall seeing an announcement about this project, and no article about it was featured in the local papers. Other citizens are not, or are just becoming, aware of it. There is no time left for most to respond in detail.

I have concerns about the scale of the project, about air and surface/groundwater pollution, monitoring, and about a lack of improvements in choices for collection of garbage and recyclables by the operators of the facility. Additionally, the efforts to publicize the permit process, so as to give the public ample opportunity to respond to possible impacts to their lives, were inadequate.

For these reasons, I am requesting that DEQ schedule a public hearing for the residents of Baker County and other affected areas. DEQ should extend the comment period for a few weeks after the hearings.

Thank you for your just consideration of this request.

Christopher Christie
Baker City, OR


If you have time, you can include any other concerns you may have about the facility and permitting process. You can get additional information from these DEQ sources:

Announcement of Proposed Renewal Permit
Draft Permit
Review Report

The following is from the announcement:

Notice Issued: 10/30/08
By: Liz Clark
Public Notice: Request for Comments
Proposed Renewal of Solid Waste Permit for Baker Sanitary Landfill and Proposed Issuance of Solid Waste
Permit for an On-site Household Hazardous Waste Facility

The purpose of this notice is to invite you to provide written comments on this proposed permit renewal.

DEQ’s Role:
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is responsible for protecting and enhancing Oregon’s water and air quality, for cleaning up spills and releases of hazardous materials, and for managing the proper disposal of hazardous and solid wastes. One way DEQ does this is by requiring permits for certain activities. DEQ issues permits to regulate the type and amount of waste disposed, and leachate and landfill gas produced at a regulated facility.
Notice issued: October 30, 2008.
Written comments due:
Written comments due: 5 p.m., December 1,

Where can I send my comments or get
technical information?
John Straughan, Environmental Engineer
(541) 278-4611 or 1-800-304-3513
700 SE Emigrant, Suite 330
Pendleton, OR 97801
Fax: (541) 278-0168
Email: John Straughan

Where can I get background information?
Information about this project is viewable online
by clicking the following link(s):
Draft Permit
Review Report
You can review hard copies of the draft permit
and related documents at:
Baker County Courthouse
1995 Third Avenue
Baker City, OR 97814
Monday-Friday from 8am- noon and 1:00pm-
Department of Environmental Quality
700 SE Emigrant, Suite 330
Pendleton, OR 97801
For a review appointment, call Gail Perry at
(541) 276-4063 or 1-800-304-3513

What is proposed?
DEQ proposes to renew the existing Solid Waste Disposal Site permit for Baker Sanitary Landfill and is inviting public comment on the proposed action.
In addition, the permit renewal includes authorization for siting, construction and operation of a permanentmobile Household
Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collection Facility at the Baker Sanitary Landfill site. The site is subject to written Department approval of engineering design, construction, operations, waste handling and emergency response plans.
During the comment period the public is invited to make comments related to specific conditions within the proposed permit.

Permit expiration
Oregon law requires facilities with a Solid Waste Disposal Site permit to renew that permit every ten (10) years. Upon renewal, this permit will be effective for eight (8) years, expiring on September 30, 2016.

Who is the applicant?
Baker Sanitary Service, Inc.
PO Box 169
Baker City, OR 97814

Where is the facility located?
Baker Sanitary Landfill and HHW Collection
39144 West Sutton Creek Road
Baker County Oregon

Who might have an interest?
People who work, live, and recreate in the area.

What does the Baker Sanitary Landfill
and HHW Collection Facility do that
affects land quality?
Baker Sanitary Landfill disposes of municipal solid waste, construction and demolition waste and sharps from Baker and Union Counties. It is also proposed to collect and transport out of county for disposal or recycling HHW waste and
conditionally exempt generator waste.

What legal requirements apply?
Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 459 and Oregon
Administrative Rules (OAR) Chapter 340
Division 93 give DEQ the authority to issue solid waste permits.

How does DEQ determine what requirements go in the permit?
Various federal and state regulations apply to a facility depending on the type of industry, the type and amount of waste disposed and the location of the facility. All applicable regulations must be contained in the permit, including the appropriate recordkeeping, monitoring, and reporting requirements to ensure compliance with these rules.

What are the known health effects or environmental impacts of the permitted waste disposed of at the Baker Sanitary Landfill and HHW Collection Facility?
Precipitation can percolate through the buried waste leaching out contaminants and possibly transporting them to groundwater. Also, decomposition of MSW waste can generate landfill gas which has the potential to migrate from the landfill to adjacent property and groundwater. Landfill gas contains approximately 50% methane which, under certain conditions, can be explosive. Household, small business and agricultural hazardous wastes have the potential to cause human health impacts and environmental contamination through improper collection, storage, transportation and final disposal. Proper collection and management of these wastes, in strict compliance with Federal, State and DEQ Permit requirements, will avoid the potential for harmful health and environmental impacts.
. . . .
How are the permitted substances measured?
By the tons of waste received.

Compliance history:
The Department issued a Notice of Noncompliance on July 31, 1998, for failure to apply daily cover and for failure to maintain the surface water diversion channel. Both of these violations were satisfactorily addressed. The Department again issued a Notice of Noncompliance on September 4, 2001, for failure to submit plans and specifications and obtain Department approval prior to laterally expanding a landfill unit and for failure to collect, analyze and report groundwater, surface water, or leachate quality data in accordance with the approved Ground Water Monitoring Plan (GWMP).

The first violation was a result of placing waste outside of the approved footprint of the landfill.

The second violation was a result of semi-annual monitoring reports that showed that ground water sampling was not conducted in accordance with the GWMP. These violations resulted in the Department issuing a Notice of Violation,
Compliance Order, and Assessment of Civil Penalty on April 23, 2002.

Both of the violations were satisfactorily addressed as indicated in a letter dated May 24, 2002. The violations were addressed by payment of the Civil Penalty and completion of the tasks outlined in the Compliance Order.

What are the special conditions of this permit?
Prior to start-up of the HHW Collection Facility the permittee will be required to prepare and submit to the Department a HHW Operations and Emergency Response Plan. This plan must be approved and a final inspection of the facility performed by the Department before the HHW facility can begin receiving waste.

What other DEQ permits are required?
No other permits are required by the Department.

What similar activities take place in the vicinity of the facility?

What happens next?
DEQ will schedule a public hearing if one is requested by 10 or more people, or by an authorized person representing an organization of at least 10 people. An additional public notice will be published to advertise the public hearing.
If a public hearing is not requested, DEQ will consider and provide responses to all comments received at the close of the comment period. DEQ may modify provisions in the proposed permit, but the permit writers can only modify conditions of the permit in accordance with the rules and statutes under the authority of DEQ.

Participation in the rulemaking or the legislative process is the only way to change the rules or statutes. Ultimately, if a facility meets all legal requirements, DEQ will issue the facility’s Solid Waste Site Disposal permit.
. . . .

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