King County’s landfill is going to get bigger

A ninth cell will be built, extending its life by another decade.

Scott Barden stands next to the pit that will house the newest, and possibly final, section of the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill near Maple Valley. The pit is 120 feet deep, and around another 180 feet will be built on top of it over the next decade (Aaron Kunkler Photo).

Scott Barden stands next to the pit that will house the newest, and possibly final, section of the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill near Maple Valley. The pit is 120 feet deep, and around another 180 feet will be built on top of it over the next decade (Aaron Kunkler Photo).

King County’s last remaining landfill will get even larger after the county council voted late last month to extend the landfill’s life and expand it in a 5-2 vote.

The decision will create a ninth cell at the landfill, which will be filled with garbage at a cost of around $270 million. This option has been roundly opposed by neighbors who have continued to show up at King County Council meetings and who again voiced their concerns at the April 24 meeting.

Council members Reagan Dunn and Kathy Lambert both voted against the plan.

“I’m going to vote no today because I want to protest the monolithic pile of garbage,” Dunn said.

The plan also included provisions for county staff to complete a study identifying alternate ways to deal with the county’s trash, including shipping it to other landfills, creating a waste-to-energy plant and creating technology to break down the garbage in the landfill. Lambert, who has been an advocate for a waste-to-energy plant, voiced her unhappiness with the decision of the council.

“To plan anything other than the best in the world is just not good enough,” she said. “This plan does not do enough to respond to the neighbors around the landfill.”

Located near Maple Valley, the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill is the last remaining in King County and was created in the 1960s. The ninth cell will extend the life of the landfill well into the future, possibly up to 2040. A current eighth cell is being built and would have given the county until 2028 to find another way to deal with its trash.

King County generates roughly 1.3 million tons of waste annually. The council’s decision to increase capacity at the landfill could potentially put it in conflict with previous settlement agreements if it increases height to 830 feet above sea level in some places. It currently has a height limit of 788 feet.

Neighbors of the landfill have voiced concerns over increases in smells and garbage being dumped on their property by eagles, which pick at trash. One man showed up to multiple meetings with medical bags that he said contained blood and plasma bags dropped on his property by eagles.

Several amendments were also included in the measure. These include mandating the county make a good faith effort to keep the landfill at 788 feet above sea level, creating and implementing a bird management plan, and requiring a progress report on exploring alternate ways of disposing trash to be delivered to the council by the end of 2021.