The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality released information on November 1st on greenhouse gas emissions from all Oregon facilities with an air quality permit. It shows that the Covanta Marion garbage incinerator just north of Salem is in the top twenty for GHG pollution in Oregon and #1, by far, in Marion County.

In 2016, the garbage burner emitted 160,517 metric tons of GHG pollution, presumably CO2, making it #18 on the list of Oregon polluters. The only other solid waste disposal facility that emits more GHG pollution than Covanta Marion is the giant Waste Management Disposal Services landfill in Gilliam County, which is where garbage from the entire Portland metro area and elsewhere goes.

There are 13 GHG polluters on the DEQ list in Marion County and Covanta Marion is by far the biggest polluter. In fact, it emits more than twice as much pollution than the other 12 combined.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reported to DEQ In Marion County in 2016 (metric tons)

Covanta Marion, Inc. 160,517

Kettle Foods, Inc. 8,491

Bruce Packing Company  8,152

Oregon State Penitentiary 7,127

Norpac Foods, Inc. 6,659

Salem Health (Healthcare Facility)  6,363

City of Salem 5,921

CPM Development Corp. 3,750

Willamette University 3,669

Salem Health (Hospitals) 3,024

Norpac Foods 2,976

Boise Packaging and Newsprint n2,765

Tree Top, Inc. 2,637

Interestingly, the Coffin Butte landfill, operated by Valley Landfills, Inc., also makes the DEQ list at #77, but it only emitted 28,366 tons of GHG pollution in 2016, about one/sixth the pollution emitted by the Covanta Marion incinerator. Coffin Butte is where trash from Polk County, including West Salem, ends up. In Marion County, all garbage must be taken to Covanta Marion according to a state law which delegates authority to the Marion County Commissioners to decide where trash haulers must dump their trash.

Burning garbage in Marion County not only leads to high levels of GHG pollution, it results in high garbage rates in Salem. A September 17, 2017, study by Bell & Associates that was included in an October Salem City Council meeting agenda packet showed that Salem residents who live in Marion County pay the highest garbage rates in the state, except for residents of Gresham, who get weekly recycling pick-up. West Salem residents pay less because tipping fees are less at the Coffin Butte landfill, which is also less polluting. The same Bell & Associates study showed that Salem residents in Marion County currently pay the equivalent of $23.55 a month for weekly pick-up of a 20 gallon trash container and West Salem residents only pay $18.10 for the same service.

If garbage haulers on the eastside in Salem were able to take trash to the Coffin Butte landfill, like haulers on the westside are able to do, residents could save over $65 a year on their garbage bill and we could significantly reduce GHG pollution in Salem.