Leichner Landfill Master Planning
Clark County has begun a master planning process to guide decisions about the future use of county-owned property at 9411 NE 94th Avenue. The county agreed to purchase the 120-acre site from private owners in December 2012, with the intent of encouraging job creation on a 35-acre portion of the property zoned for light industrial development. A 74-acre portion of the property, which encompasses the closed Leichner Landfill, will be included in the master planning process, but its redevelopment will be limited for at least 5 to 10 years because of the constraints of environmental regulations.
Over the next several months, the county and a team of experts will study the entire 120-acre site and analyze potential reuses from the perspectives of market demand and their environmental effects. The master planning process will provide information to residents, businesses, and private developers and seek their feedback.
The master plan will not determine what specific uses will develop at the site. Instead, the plan will provide a conceptual design identifying where buildings and roads and other infrastructure might be located to support future development. Typically, such a plan assumes a site develops in phases over several years.
Leichner Landfill History
The Leichner Brothers Land Reclamation Corporation began receiving garbage and other waste at the site in the late 1930s. Garbage was burned and buried for almost 50 years until environmental studies found that decaying wastes from the unlined landfill had contaminated groundwater. In 1987, the Washington State Department of Ecology issued a consent decree that required the landfill owners to stop further groundwater contamination and clean up the site. The landfill closed completely in 1991. Clark County and the City of Vancouver joined the property owners in the cleanup effort with an eye toward the future purchase of the site for beneficial public uses.
The cleanup included covering the 74-acre landfill with a layer of dirt, followed by a thick membrane liner and a second layer of dirt to keep precipitation out of the landfill. This process is called “capping” the landfill. The property owners also installed a system to control methane gases generated by decaying garbage and groundwater monitoring wells to track the amount and spread of any contamination. Since the mid-1990s, methane production and groundwater contamination have decreased significantly.
The site is currently managed under a consent decree with the Washington State Department of Ecology. That legal document includes a deed restriction that prohibits any future use of the 74-acre capped landfill area that could breach the cap and cause additional groundwater contamination. The master plan will consider these constraints when determining potential future uses for the landfill portion of the property, and the constraints do not rule out some form of future public use.
The 35-acre parcel at the south end of the landfill does not have the same level of regulatory constraints and offers the greatest opportunity for a range of future uses. This site was the source for much of the soil used to cap the landfill and does not have contamination or cleanup issues.
The master plan will explore a range of potential uses for this area, with emphasis on future development that will create jobs, as directed by the Board of Clark County Commissioners.
The master planning process will include studies analyzing land use, environmental, transportation and infrastructure needs to serve development. A fiscal analysis will assess the market demand for the types of businesses and uses that might locate at the site.
To comment on the master planning project, email Leichner@clark.wa.gov