Closed landfill’s owners seek release from post-closure permit

Circle C Corp. says it can’t afford county’s criteria

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter

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Did You Know?

Circle C Landfill is the first Clark County landfill to request removal from its post-closure permit. All other landfills, including the Leichner Landfill in the Orchards area, are still being monitored under their post-closure permits, according to Clark County Public Health.

More than 25 years after closing Circle C Landfill near La Center, the owners are still monitoring the groundwater, gas, leachate and various other aspects of the shuttered landfill site.

But after nearly three decades of testing and heaps of data, the Circle C Corp. is out of money and is asking the county to release it from the landfill’s post-closure permit and the ongoing monitoring it requires. Clark County Environmental Public Health, in turn, is working on a set of criteria to be met before terminating the permit — which would be the first local post-closure permit termination.

The two sides, however, appear to have different ideas about what that criteria should look like.

Public health wants a comprehensive look at a wide range of factors at the 8-acre landfill before ending the ongoing monitoring.

“There’s a certain level of due diligence (required by the permit),” said Chuck Harman, environmental public health program manager. “We want to feel comfortable that if we let them step away, that there’s no problems.”

Circle C says the county’s criteria list is too expansive and, as a result, expensive.

“The program outlined up there would cost a fantastic amount of money,” said Dennis Dykes, a hydrogeologist who has been monitoring the landfill for Circle C for more than 20 years, during an April 26 board of health meeting. “There are ways to accomplish the same purpose and reduce the cost.”

Now the two sides are trying to find a middle ground.

Setting new criteria

The Circle C Landfill, 31313 N.W. Paradise Park Road, was a limited-purpose landfill that operated from about 1977 until 1990. The landfill accepted construction demolition debris, dirt, rock, wood waste, shredded tires and asbestos (in a designated area). In 1990, the landfill was capped and closed.

Upon closure, the state requires a permit that outlines monitoring requirements. In Clark County, the permit costs about $5,000 per year. Under the permit, county staff periodically tour and inspect the site to ensure testing and monitoring are being performed, Harman said.

In March 2015, the owners of the landfill — Circle C Corp., owned by Caren and Skip Carlson — asked the county to release them from the permit.

While state law requires the permit, it doesn’t offer any process for releasing entities from the permit, Harman said. This was also the first time the county has received such a request so no local policy existed either, he said. So public health staff have spent the last two years researching state laws, consulting with the Department of Ecology and developing a list of criteria.

The proposed criteria would require intervals of testing over the course of about a year, in order to capture samples during various seasons. The testing would cover gas production, leachate (liquid draining from the landfill) production, groundwater monitoring and the landfill’s cover. The agreement would also include covenants that would dictate future use of the land.

“If they’re released, all requirements of having the permit and things they have to do as part of the permit, would go away,” Harman said. “We want to make sure we have a high level of confidence.”

‘Out of money’

Representatives of Circle C say while they expected more extensive testing before being released from the permit, the county proposal is too onerous.

“We can agree with this, but I think the Carlsons would ask you to be reasonable about it,” Dykes said during the meeting.

For example, the county’s list of chemicals to test for spans three pages and includes chemicals that aren’t likely to be in the landfill since it was a limited-purpose landfill, Dykes said.

“I can see the logic to it, but I think we need to get into the context of this limited-purpose landfill and focus on what’s likely to be there,” he said.

Over the years, Circle C has been diligent in its testing, but it has scaled back some of the monitoring — with permission from the county — in order to make its limited dollars for post-closure monitoring stretch further, Dykes said. Some of the proposed tests, he said, can cost hundreds of dollars per sample.

“Circle C Corporation is out of money,” said attorney Stephen Horenstein, representing Circle C at the board of health meeting. “It doesn’t have any more money to do this kind of work. So one of the conversations needs to be about grant money or some other way to pay for what has to be done.”

In the next few weeks, Harman hopes to have public health staff sit down with the Circle C representatives to work through some of the issues and find balance, he said. Once those meetings are done, public health staff will return to the board of health, which is made up of the Clark County council, for approval of the criteria.

Then, if approved, Circle C can begin the final testing and monitoring. Assuming all requirements are met, Clark County Public Health will then release Circle C from its post-closure permit.