Oregon DEQ seeks comments on Fox Hill Landfill

By Dick Mason, The Observer April 19, 2013 12:15 pm


The Fox Hill Landfill northwest of La Grande has been closed since 2006. Chris Baxter/The Observer
The Fox Hill Landfill northwest of La Grande has been closed since 2006. Chris Baxter/The Observer

by Dick Mason/The Observer

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality wants to know if people have concerns about the Fox Hill Landfill, which has been closed since 2006.

The reason is the solid waste closure permit for the landfill is up for renewal. The DEQ is proposing that the permit be renewed for another 10 years. People who would like to comment on the proposed renewal of the permit have until April 29 to submit comments. 

John Straughan, senior engineer for the Oregon DEQ office in Pendleton, said there is an excellent chance that the Fox Hill Landfill solid waste closure permit will be renewed. The renewal of solid waste permits for landfills in Eastern Oregon that have been closed is normally an uneventful process.

“It has never been an issue before,’’ Straughan said. “The only time we have controversy is when waste is still being brought to a landfill.’’

Straughan said that the Fox Hill Landfill has been well managed since its closure and is secure since it has been covered with vinyl and 3 to 4 feet of dirt. 

 The Fox Hill Landfill, about a mile northwest of the Union County Fairgrounds, served as the site of all municipal solid waste that was taken in Union County for decades until 2006. Following its closure, Union County’s solid waste has been taken to the Baker Landfill southeast of Baker City.

No changes have been made to the Fox Hill Landfill since its closure. It has been managed by Union County since this time. The DEQ inspects the landfill regularly  to make sure federal and state regulations are being met. It checks for groundwater contamination, whether methane gas is being contained at the site and more. 

Methane gas levels are examined because the gas is flammable and thus can pose a threat to nearby buildings.

“Methane gas is not a concern at the Fox Hill Landfill because there are not any buildings nearby,’’ said Straughan.

Methane gas is monitored at the property line to make sure it is not leaving the site at too of high levels.

“It is not leaving at levels which will cause problems,’’ Straughan said. 

Nothing would change dramatically in the unlikely event that the Fox Hill Landfill permit is not renewed. The landfill, now regulated under the DEQ’s solid waste program, would instead be regulated by the DEQ’s cleanup program. This would not make a significant difference in how the landfill is inspected. 

“We would still be looking for the same things,’’ Straughan said.

Union County would still be responsible for managing the landfill. 

Comments on the Fox Hill Landfill can be mailed to Liz Clark, permit coordinator, Oregon DEQ, Eastern Region  Solid Waste Program, 400 E. Scenic Drive, Suite 307, The Dalles, OR 97058.

Comments can be sent via fax at 541-298-7330 or emailed to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it