File photo
Cedar Hills Regional Landfill.

File photo Cedar Hills Regional Landfill.

County wants input for plan to develop Cedar Hills Regional Landfill

Sustainable waste management supporters have called previous environmental impact statements a “boondoggle.”

King County’s main landfill continues to draw criticism amid talks of addressing long-term garbage disposal options.

King County’s Solid Waste Division issued a final Environmental Impact Statement for the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill 2020 site development plan and facilities relocation on March 22, which initiates an appeal period to enable the public to review and submit formal appeals on the adequacy of the document by April 8.

King County’s Solid Waste Division reports it is working on this project to meet the region’s need for waste disposal services — and to ensure there is adequate capacity in the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill to continue accepting garbage beyond 2028.

The project was outlined in the 2019 Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan, which was approved by the King County Council.

The plan outlined a number of policy directives including “extending the life of Cedar Hills Regional Landfill by optimizing development of the site for landfilling,” as well as “consideration of waste-to-energy and other alternative conversion technologies as long-term disposal options.”

Complaints about the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill site have been raised by residents who live in homes adjacent to the landfil. They have cited concerns over the air, water and ground pollution that they say puts their neighborhood at risk.

The plans in the description of the project outline that the King County Solid Waste Division is exploring options to relocate facilities on the site “so these areas can be developed for disposal of garbage,” suggesting that the landfilling capacity at the site will be expanded.

Advocates of sustainable energy and waste management have been critical of the King County Solid Waste Division’s apparent push to expand the landfill. In September 2021, the Institute for Energy and Resource Management issued a public statement calling the King County Solid Waste Division’s environmental impact statement a “boondoogle,” and accusing the county of “going through the motions but having the conclusion decided well before hand.”

President of the Institute for Energy and Resource Management, Philipp Schmidt-Pathmann, has been increasingly vocal in his criticism of the King County Solid Waste Division and what he believes has been a lack of investment in recycling infrastructure and systems improvements. He cited stagnate rates of recycling in the region over the years.

Schmidt-Pathmann also has expressed his disbelief in the county’s studies, which claim the possibility of high rates of methane recapture from the landfill. Schmidt-Pathmann believes that the county has overinflated the rates of methane that can be captured as a way of making a landfill look like a more viable and sustainable waste management method than he believes it truly is.

He expressed his skepticism regarding the county’s reported rates of methane capture in a letter to the director of the King County Solid Waste Division in November of 2021.

Schmidt-Pathmann, a vocal proponent of waste-to-energy systems and an expert who helped Los Angeles adopt waste-to-energy, also said the measure in the county’s adopted 2019 Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan that directs a “consideration of waste-to-energy and other alternative conversion technologies as long-term disposal options” did not go far enough to seriously consider the technology, nor does he believe the county is currently making enough investments in the technology that he believes is a far more sustainable way of both waste management and energy generation.

Public input

King County’s Solid Waste Division is hosting an online meeting from 6-8 pm April 27 via Zoom. A brief registration is required and can be completed here.

The meeting is an opportunity to learn and ask questions about what’s going on at the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill, including current and planned construction projects, environmental monitoring activities, and operational activities.

In a statement about the meeting and the decision-making process the King County Solid Waste Division said this:

“The Solid Waste Division has identified Cedar Hills South as the preferred alternative for the landfill support facilities site as that alternative best accomplishes the Division’s purpose and needs. The Solid Waste Division has not identified a preferred alternative for the landfill site development. The County will make a decision on the location of the site development and the location of the landfill support facilities based upon all of the information available, including the [Final Environmental Impact Statement] and non-environmental factors such as cost, policy considerations and benefits associated with each of the options.”

The Final Environmental Impact Statement and additional background on the project is available for review electronically on the project webpage. Anyone wishing to appeal the adequacy of the Final Environmental Impact Statement must file a Notice of Appeal by April 8, 2022.

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