Methane leaks at the Coffin Butte Landfill exceed state, federal limits

  • Methane is a greenhouse gas that is more potent than carbon dioxide and is a major contributor to climate change.
  • The EPA has not publicly released the results of its inspections
  • Waste disposal company Republic Services is considering a significant landfill expansion

Methane leaks at the Coffin Butte Landfill exceed state and federal limits and what the landfill has released, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency inspection found.

Landfills are among the biggest sources of methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide and a major contributor to climate change, according to the EPA.

The EPA measured methane 61 times above regulatory limits during a June 2022 inspection of the landfill. Twenty-one of those exceedances were measured at more than 10,000 parts per million, or 20 times the 500 ppm limit set by Oregon and the EPA.

In addition to contributing to climate change, the measured levels can cause health problems for neighbors and in some cases have been high enough to cause explosions and fires, said Lisa Arkin of the Eugene-based environmental group Beyond Toxics.

Coffin Butte, located off Highway 99W north of Corvallis, is operated by Republic Services, the second largest waste disposal company in the United States. The landfill is an integral part of Marion County’s solid waste disposal system.

The inspection report noted that there were so many exceedances that the inspector ran out of marking flags. In some cases, the levels were so high that instruments could not measure them. And multiple exceedances were measured several feet into the air, indicating significant accumulations of landfill gas, the report said.

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