MAPLE VALLEY - The decades old feud over the only landfill in King County is reaching another level of contention as neighbors try to fight an expansion on the table. But some county leaders say the expansion is the most viable option to accommodate the tons of trash in King County.
The Cedar Hills Regional landfill has been around for more than five decades. It started relatively small, but now it’s grown to the size of nearly 700 football fields.
The trash from more than 1.5 million people get dumped into the 920 acre landfill nestled between Renton and Maple Valley.
The stockpile of garbage has grown larger and taller over the decades, standing 788 feet above sea level in some parts of the landfill.
The stench is noticeable from Leslie Morgan’s home.
“What I notice mostly are the headaches,” Morgan said.
Morgan says she knowingly moved into this neighborhood close to the landfill back in the '80s because she says Solid Waste told her the landfill would shut down in several years.
“We built our dream home,” Morgan said.
Instead of closing, Morgan says the landfill grew significantly and with that came health concerns.
“What we deal with now is horrific odor that fills our house of landfill and obnoxious odor and gasses,” Morgan said.
Morgan and thousands of her neighbors sued a number of parties including King County and Cedar Hills back in the '90s. Morgan says the case was settled out of court and that she and others were financially compensated. But on Monday, Morgan was back in front of King County Council renewing her fight.
“We need to move to something different,” Morgan said.
Some King County leaders, including King County Executive Dow Constantine, want to extend the landfill’s operation for another 20 years and use the area known as cell 9 as a trash site. Currently cell 9 consists of parking spaces and trailers, and it would allow an extra 25 acres to be used to stockpile garbage.
A final vote was expected on Monday but due to six proposed amendments the vote was delayed.
Council member Reagan Dunn, who sponsored the amendments, is against the expansion of the landfill and wants to shut it down.
“Patience is wearing thin. We must find another solution, we need to find a different place to put our garbage that’s not right up next to Renton and Maple Valley,” Dunn said.
Dunn says the county should be considering waste to energy options or waste exports where trash would be hauled to different states that accept them for a price.
“We may have to consider those for longer term strategy but for right now the executive proposed what he believes to be the best for our regional area,” King County Solid Waste Director Pat McLaughlin said.
Just this past year alone, McLaughlin says the landfill received nearly a million tons of garbage.
“Our local capacity is reaching its levels,” McLaughlin said.
He says expanding the only landfill in King County is the best option.
“It’s the least expensive and the least environmental impact option available for the region,” McLaughlin said.
Meaning, the feud will continue between neighbors and the landfill.
“We are losing our right to enjoy our rights and property in order for other people to dispose of their garbage,” Morgan said.
The six amendments discussed on Monday include creating a 1,000 foot buffer so that garbage is not disposed or stockpiled 1,000 feet of the landfill’s property.
Other amendments want to cap the height of trash to 788 feet above sea level as well as charging Solid Waste for road work near Cedar Hills. Dunn says the truck traffic in and out of the landfill is impacting the local infrastructure.