A cross the road from a butter-colored wheat field near Medical Lake stands a homemade sign that reads, “Proposed Landfill - Help.”
The cry for help hasn’t gone unheeded by residents in this part of the West Plains.
Last month, residents learned that Sanifill Inc. of Washington had applied for a permit to expand its 40-acre landfill, the Graham Road Recycling and Disposal Facility, by an additional 251 acres to the north and west.
Area residents quickly circulated petitions, painted signs and organized the “West Plains Neighborhood Association” to oppose expansion.
Since the group’s inception three weeks ago, members have elected officers and created committees to research the potential impact on traffic, home values and the water supply.
Sunday night, 12 committee members turned President Reule “Curly” Werner’s living room into a crowded meeting hall. Residents said they are most concerned that their wells could be polluted by landfill leakage, Werner said.
Sanifill has asked that a portion of the expanded landfill be designated “limited purpose” usage, for dumping of tires, sterilized medical waste and petroleum-soaked soil into lined cells or pits.
Three weeks ago, Darrel Startin, site manager for the landfill, met with 90 residents and said six state-of-the-art landfill cells, or pits, would prevent leakage into the groundwater. The present landfill has three “cells” in use; Sanifill’s request would add six more.
The Spokane Health District has requested that the Spokane Planning Department approve doing an environmental impact statement on the expansion proposal, said David Swink, district director of environmental health.
Dan Kenreck, head of the West Plains Association’s water committee, said that Eastern Washington University’s geologic maps show the area’s highest elevation is atop the proposed landfill. Water flows into the wells on either side, Kenreck said.
“We’ll get our drinking water from that dump. Isn’t that sweet?” he said.
Werner said the landfill should be located somewhere else … “not where there are families and water supplies here,” he said.
There’s scabland just a couple of miles down the road that will never be used for residential use. Why can’t they put it there? ” Werner asked.
“We could use a park here instead of a landfill,” said Melanie Wilkie, the association’s public relations coordinator.
Startin said he understands the residents’ concerns and invites them to tour the present landfill facility.
“They should have concerns, and they have every right to have their comments in,” he said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo