Scott Barden stands at the bottom of the massive pit of the landfill’s newly-built eighth section. Work on the new section has been underway for around two years. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo

Scott Barden stands at the bottom of the massive pit of the landfill’s newly-built eighth section. Work on the new section has been underway for around two years. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo

Committee proposes amendments to address King County trash dilemma

King County Council to vote on plan.

Proposed amendments to a plan for King County’s landfill were recommended at a meeting April 18 by the Regional Policy Committee as part of an ongoing effort to address the future of waste disposal in the county.

Residents again addressed county leaders at the meeting, with many asking the county to explore alternatives to expanding the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill and extending its life an additional 20 years. The King County Council will vote on the amended plan on April 24.

“I don’t think you understand the impacts of this comp plan,” said landfill neighbor Kim Brighton. “The public wants the landfill to close.”

Several amendments to the plan were recommended by the committee, including one that states the county must make a good faith effort to keep the landfill at 788 feet above sea level, a height agreed to in previous settlements with neighbors. Others dealt with creating and implementing a management plan to keep large birds like eagles from picking up trash. At least one neighbor said there have been multiple blood and plasma bags dropped on his property by eagles.

A total of six amendments were passed, including one that stipulated the county should develop a plan for long-term disposal of waste and mandates the county provide a progress report that would be due to the council by the end of 2021.

“We need to kick this thing into gear,” said county council member Rod Dembowski.

The committee’s recommendation is the latest step for the county as it figures out how to handle its trash. King County has one remaining landfill located near Maple Valley. It was built in the 1960s and is nearly full. A final cell is being constructed and will extend the life of the landfill until around 2028.

When it fills up, the county will need to have another plan in place dealing with how it handles trash. The county could further extend the landfill by allowing even more cells to be built. If that plan is approved, the landfill could operate until around 2040. Buildings could be decommissioned and removed to make extra space. This would cost the county between $240 million to $270 million.

This plan has been generally opposed by neighbors who have attended past meetings, with many voicing support for the building of a waste-to-energy plant, an option which has been championed by county council member Kathy Lambert. This option would burn trash, convert it to energy and cost between $1.1 billion to $1.4 billion to construct.

The county could additionally ship its trash away on freight trains to landfills in other parts of Washington or neighboring states. Trash from King County would account for around 2 percent of all freight traffic in the state and cost the county roughly $5 million to $7 million.

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