Friday, February 25, 2011

Talking trash


North County seemingly has everything going for it, from microclimates to a variety of ways to enjoy its quality of life. What it doesn’t have is a place to dispose of its own trash. North County trash is trucked just about everywhere – to Orange and Ventura counties, Arizona and Otay Mesa in South County.

A mere two decades and $50 million or more in costs later, that is getting close to changing.
A hearing at the Fallbrook Library on Wednesday night put the proposed Gregory Canyon landfill back in the news. The county Department of Environmental Health heard public input on its plans to issue yet again a solid waste permit.
If you have a good memory, you may recall that planning for this landfill began around 1990 and that voters overwhelmingly approved it twice, in 1994 and 2004.

The landfill site is high above the San Luis Rey Riverand state Route 76, three miles east of Interstate 15.
Environmentalists argue that toxins from the landfill could seep into the ground and ultimately the river. They do not mention the extensive runoff collection and subdrain systems that are planned, or that the landfill will be covered by 12 layers of soil, gravel, woven geotextile, geomembrane and geosynthetic clay. Nor do they mention the lowered costs of disposing of trash, an estimated $50 million in fees to the county, or 1,300 acres of perpetual open space that eventually will result.

The Fallbrook hearing presented yet another opportunity for a Potemkin village front of opposition, this time with a National City environmental organization busing people to Fallbrook. It escapes us, however, how shipping millions of tons of trash long distances benefits North County residents who ultimately pay the cost. Or how South County benefits from trucks on its highways to fill its precious landfill space with North County trash.

“They’re after us again,” said Nancy Chase, spokeswoman for Gregory Canyon Ltd., “because we’re on the one-yard line.”

The landfill is getting closer, although there is no guarantee it will score this year. The project is within 60 days of acquiring a permit from the Air Pollution Control District. A Regional Water Quality Control District permit could come as soon as April. By September, the Army Corps of Engineers could be in position to grant yet another contested permit.
The voters have spoken twice. The regulatory processes have been engaged for 20 years. The courts have been called upon to rule at almost every step of the way. At some point, the greater good must prevail. The facts cannot be ignored: North County must have a place to bury its trash. And North County does not have one.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Gregory Canyon Update - Solid Waste Facility Permit

The County of San Diego Solid Waste Local Enforcement Agency (LEA) is providing you notice that:

On February 1, 2011 the LEA determined that the Solid Waste Facility Permit application package for the proposed Gregory Canyon Landfill, previously accepted as incomplete, is complete and correct.
The update on the web page (listed below) is located at the bottom of the paragraph that discusses permit related actions.

For more information on the update please visit
If you have questions in regards to this notice please contact the LEA at 858-694-2888 or by e-mail at DEH Comments

The Gregory Canyon project is much needed

By Dede Alpert, Lucy Killea and Julie Meier Wright (San Diego Union Tribune)

For nearly two decades, there has been talk of building a 183-acre dump about 3.5 miles east of Interstate 15, just south of state Route 76. Opponents include the nearby Pala Indians and others worried about long-term effects on the San Luis Rey River and its tributaries. The project remains in the midst of the permitting process.

The Gregory Canyon Landfill needs to be completed quickly. That, along with increased recycling, will protect our health and environment for decades to come
Here's why:

Our local population grows daily, and the need to provide safe, environmentally sound and convenient disposal for waste generated by the residents and businesses of San Diego County has increased. Waste in the county has grown to such an extent that all San Diego landfills are now operating at, or very close to, their maximum permitted capacities, and the most recently adopted revision of the county Solid Waste Management Plan "approved by the county, a majority of the cities in the county and the California Integrated Waste Management Board" concludes that the Gregory Canyon Landfill is absolutely necessary to meet the requirements of state law with respect to an adequate availability of daily disposal capacity.

For more than 10 years, Gregory Canyon Landfill Ltd. has been working toward one goal: providing a state-of-the art, environmentally safe and convenient disposal facility for residential and commercial waste in North County. The projectŠ²Š‚™s investors have spent more than $40 million of private funds and been subject to 12 years of rigorous environmental reviews by the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health. The project's Environmental Impact Report, which has been approved by numerous state and federal agencies including San Diego County's Department of Environmental Health, states that it will provide levels of environmental protection far superior to that of other area landfills and will be the safest, most environmentally protective landfill in the state of California.

We believe that it is this attention to the details of environmental safety, and the obvious need to manage our own trash, that is responsible for voters' overwhelming approval of this privately funded project in not one, but two countywide elections.

Failure of this project would be disastrous for our growing communities. With no local landfill to handle North County waste, freeway traffic congestion would increase as trucks would have to travel long distances to more distant landfills. In addition, a virtual monopoly on county waste disposal would result, threatening citizens with significant increases in disposal fees. The county would suffer significant economic losses as well. As the Union-Tribune stated in an editorial, "The landfill also will contribute some $50 million to county coffers." That $50 million-plus could help rescue San Diego County as it strives to generate more tax revenue.

Already strapped homeowners cannot be expected to continue to carry the burden of our current economic meltdown. Generating new business is key. In order to lure new businesses we must demonstrate our ability to build much needed, privately funded infrastructure that will serve our needs for decades to come.

In August 2004, The San Diego Union-Tribune editorialized about the critical nature of this project, saying, "The need for these facilities is now 10 years closer. The technology to operate the landfill safely" that is without toxic leaks "is now 10 years better. The county has 10 years more residents, almost 800,000 tons of trash a year from North County alone, and lessening space for it in landfills elsewhere. The extensive requirements of environmental regulation are 10 years stricter and 10 years closer to fulfillment."

Six more years have passed since those observations were made.

The time is now.

Alpert and Killea are former state senators from San Diego. Meier Wright is president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.

Gregory Canyon Faces Possible Delay

By J. Harry Jones
February 1, 2008 


Development of the long-planned and highly litigated Gregory Canyon landfill could be delayed once again by a court decision.

In a tentative decision issued this week, Vista Superior Court Judge Robert Dahlquist ruled that a revised environmental report, which must be completed before developers can seek numerous permits to build the landfill, is still insufficient in one area.

Should Dahlquist affirm his decision at a hearing scheduled for Monday, the county could be forced to redo the report and then give the public time to respond to it, said Everett DeLano, lead attorney for landfill opponents. That process usually takes months.

Nancy Chase, a spokeswoman for Gregory Canyon Ltd., the partnership that wants to build the landfill, said the ruling shouldn't mean a significant delay. She said the fact that the judge ruled that all other issues in the report have been resolved is “a major victory.”

Planned for nearly two decades, the Gregory Canyon would be the only major landfill in North County, which trucks trash south to county dumps or north to Orange County. The site is on state Route 76 about three miles east of Interstate 15.

Dahlquist said a small segment of the report inadequately addresses part of an agreement between Gregory Canyon Ltd. and the Olivenhain Municipal Water District, which has contracted to truck recycled water to the dump for 60 years.

He said the report's assertion that the district has plenty of water to accommodate the dump's needs, as well as its regular customers, is not supported by data.

Chase said the developer's lawyers will argue Monday that sufficient information is available. Even if the judge upholds his ruling, she said, Gregory Canyon Ltd. is confident that it will not have to go through the regular review process and can address the issue in an addendum.

The ruling is the latest action in a lawsuit brought in 2005 by a consortium of opponents who contended that the environmental report was deficient. Judge Michael Anello ruled that three areas needed more work.
In June, the county's Environmental Health Department finalized a revised report addressing the deficiencies.
Gregory Canyon Ltd. has spent about $40 million trying to develop the landfill, Chase said. She said it expects to break ground by the end of the year.

The landfill has been debated and challenged at every turn by the Pala Indian band, environmentalists and some North County cities and water districts, who argue it could pollute the San Luis Rey River and an underground aquifer. The developers say a modern design would make it among the safest landfills in the country.

In two countywide elections, in 1994 and 2004, voters have endorsed building it.

New Rules Bar "E-Waste" From State Landfills

San Diego Union Tribune
By Jonathan Sidener
January 22, 2006

Don't throw away that dead battery, old cell phone or broken digital camera. As of Feb. 9, it will be illegal to send household electronic waste – e-waste – to California landfills.

Batteries and consumer electronics, along with fluorescent bulbs and thermostats, contain low levels of hazardous metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and chromium, which can contaminate soil and water. Those products and others classified by the state Department of Toxic Substance Control as "universal waste" will have to go to a recycler or household hazardous waste collection center.

How to recycle
For information on locations for recycling or on properly disposing of household electronics, contact: or (800) CLEANUP.

Similar regulations have banned TV sets and computer monitors from the state's landfills since 2001. The e-waste and other items have been classified as universal waste since 2002, but homes and small businesses were granted an extension through Feb. 8 of this year.

The term universal waste is used because these items are found in a multitude of locations, essentially every home and business, not from a single place such as a factory.

Despite the sweeping changes in the way Californians must dispose of such products, residents have received little, if any, notification about the new rules from either the state or San Diego County, which will oversee universal waste collection locally.

Officials don't expect people's waste-disposal habits to change overnight. And they say they are counting on voluntary compliance – not enforcement – to keep toxic metals out of landfills.

"We're not going to hire a bunch of garbage police to rummage through people's trash and see whether Joe and Sally California threw away three batteries," said Ron Baker, a spokesman for the state agency.

"In general, the people of California care about the environment," Baker said. "If we tell them why we're doing this, that we don't want these contaminants re-entering the environment, and if we tell them where to dispose of the items, I think we'll see a major change within three to six months."

Baker said a study of pollution in San Francisco Bay suggested that the leading source of toxic metals was universal waste.

There is no definitive list of products that qualify as universal waste.

But San Diego County environmental officials say the category appears to cover anything that contains a circuit board – from electric watches and alarm clocks to electronic toys, VCRs, even novelty greeting cards that play a tune when opened. Circuit boards contain lead solder and copper, which can leach into the environment when the boards decay over time.

Electronics, filled with potentially toxic metals, are a staple of modern life, from talking dolls and singing fish to video game systems, boom boxes, portable CD players and remote controls for nearly everything, not to mention all of the gadgets the remotes control. And all of these devices contain circuit boards, batteries or both.

The Department of Toxic Substance Control has tested circuit boards from several products – laptop computers, LCD monitors and plasma TVs – and all exceeded limits for lead and copper.

Despite the results, Baker said his agency hasn't concluded that all electronics should be classified as universal waste. He said that the agency is testing products and that those that exceed levels for hazardous metals will be added to its list.

So far, these products have been deemed universal waste and must be recycled or taken to a household hazardous waste collection center beginning next month:

Common batteries such as button batteries, AA, AAA, C and D cells, but not car batteries, which are already regulated

Electronics such as TVs, computer monitors, computers, printers, VCRs, cell phones, telephones, radios and microwave ovens

Novelties such as greeting cards that play music when opened and most sneakers with flashing lights in their soles

Products on the list that contain mercury include:

Fluorescent light tubes and bulbs, and several other types of bulbs such as high-intensity discharge, metal halide, sodium and neon


Electrical switches, relays, clothes irons, silent light switches

Mercury thermometers

 Mercury gauges, which are often found in barometers, manometers and blood-pressure monitors

In addition, aerosol cans that are not empty are considered universal waste.

As the Department of Toxic Substance Control adds to its list of items considered universal waste, others are proceeding with a broader definition.

"It's my interpretation that all electronics are universal waste," said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste. "Every single device DTSC has tested has been found to be a hazard."

Murray said it was surprising that officials have not publicized the new requirements. He said officials and groups such as his have been focusing on computer monitors and TVs, which made up nearly half of the estimated 515,000 tons of e-waste sent to California landfills in 2004.

Since universal waste accounts for the other half of e-waste, the change in household-waste regulations next month probably deserved a higher profile, he said.

San Diego County environmental health specialist KariLyn Merlos agreed with Murray's interpretation that all consumer electronics are universal waste. Merlos said the regulations put the burden of determining whether an item is universal waste on consumers. To make things less confusing, all electronics should be recycled or taken to a municipal collection center, she said.

Merlos said that although her department has not publicized the new rules, it has worked to make consumers aware of the issue. She said the county and its cities have been encouraging residents to properly dispose of all the universal waste items at local household hazardous waste collection sites.

"We've been promoting the recycling of all these items as part of our general household hazardous waste collection," Merlos said. "We're already doing universal waste collection."

Trash News You Can Really Use

See this instyle article by the San Diego Union Tribune: instyle.pdf

Gregory Canyon landfill effort inches along

FALLBROOK ---- The Gregory Canyon landfill project took another step forward recently when an agency governing water quality in the region deemed as complete the landfill's application for a major permit.

In a letter dated March 1, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board told Gregory Canyon Ltd. owner Richard Chase that his application for a water-quality permit was ready to be ruled upon.
The board will consider the extent to which the dump would affect local water sources and will either issue or deny the permit. A decision is expected in July, officials said.

While the announcement did not amount to permit approval, a spokesman for Gregory Canyon Ltd. called it "an important milestone" after more than five years of revising the application to the board. The application was at first deemed inadequate and was returned on May 11,1999.

Gregory Canyon spokesman Scott Maloni said Friday that the company "looks forward to the Water Quality Control Board hearing."

He declined to elaborate and Chase could not be reached for comment.

Proposed for 1,700 acres three miles west of Interstate 15 off Highway 76, the landfill would accommodate 1 million tons of solid waste annually for 30 years.

The water-quality permit, one of several still needed to begin construction of the $60 million landfill, would address the dump's proximity to the San Luis Rey River, as well as technical aspects such as the liner intended to keep the solid waste from reaching the soil.

Bill Hutton, a permitting lawyer for Gregory Canyon Ltd., said in a December interview that the five-layer liner system "vastly exceeds both the federal and state standards" for containing harmful substances that could leak from the dump into the groundwater.

A lawyer representing RiverWatch, a group dedicated to protecting the San Luis Rey River, said Friday that he hopes the water-quality board will deny the application.

"(Gregory Canyon Ltd.) has really touted the idea that this is the most advanced liner system known to mankind, but one has to keep in mind that all liners eventually leak," DeLano said. "I suppose a thicker liner or a more complex liner might take longer, but they're all going to leak. The question is, what impact is it going to have on the groundwater?"

DeLano is the lead attorney on a lawsuit filed in Superior Court last fall by RiverWatch, the city of Oceanside, and the Pala Band of Mission Indians against the county's Department of Environmental Health and Gregory Canyon Ltd.

The suit also personally names Gary Erbeck, director of the San Diego Solid Waste Local Enforcement Agency, as a defendant.

In the complaint, DeLano and lawyers for Pala and Oceanside claim that an analysis performed by Gregory Canyon Ltd., and on which the county based its solid waste permit approval, was flawed. Specifically, it states that the project's effects on air pollution, traffic, noise, endangered species and nearby sacred American Indian sites were understated in the report.

The first briefing in the lawsuit is scheduled for April 15 and the trial is scheduled to begin in late June. Two major permits from the Air Pollution Control District and the Army Corps of Engineers, along with a host of smaller permits, are still needed before the landfill can open.

Contact staff writer Tom Pfingsten at (760) 731-5799 or

Gregory Canyon construction may begin in the fall
By: TOM PFINGSTEN - Staff Writer

FALLBROOK ---- The Gregory Canyon landfill near the Pala Indian Reservation needs only a few more permits before construction begins, perhaps as early as this fall, a spokesman for the group that wants to build the dump said Thursday.

With the approval of its major operating permit on Dec. 22, Gregory Canyon Ltd., the group that has struggled for more than 10 years to build the dump off Highway 76, three miles east of Interstate 15, gained momentum that could translate into an early 2006 opening.
"It has been a long process, and the end is in sight," said Nancy Chase, a Gregory Canyon spokeswoman. "It's been so long because we live in a state that requires large infrastructure projects to go through intensive environmental review, as they should."
Gregory Canyon Ltd.'s plans focus on 320 acres of a 1,700-acre site. If the remaining permits needed for operation are approved before next summer, as expected, said Chase, the way will be cleared to build a landfill that would accommodate 1 million tons of solid waste each year for 30 years.

Opponents of the project range from local politicians to a San Luis Rey Rivershed watchdog group to the Pala band of Luiseno Indians. Lenore Volturno, Pala's environmental director, has vehemently opposed the project, and traveled to Sacramento last month to contest it before the California Integrated Waste Management Board.

Even though that council ultimately approved the landfill's most important permit, Volturno said Thursday: "We're very hopeful that there will be an agency that will not supply a permit to Gregory Canyon, because it's such a terrible environmental location for a project," she said. "There's so many issues with this particular site, both environmentally and culturally."

Among the complaints that Volturno has voiced are that the landfill will pollute the tribe's major source of water, the San Luis Rey River, and that its footprint encroaches on sacred land situated atop a hill nearby Gregory Canyon.

But the dump is not a sure thing yet.

Bill Hutton, the attorney who handles Gregory Canyon's permit process, said Thursday that several more permits are required before construction can begin.

Water quality at issue

Perhaps the most consistent accusation leveled against the landfill by its opponents is that it will negatively affect the quality of water, both underground and in the nearby San Luis Rey River.

To prevent that from happening ---- and to earn the approval of a local water board ---- Hutton said that Gregory Canyon plans to install a 7-foot-thick, five-layer lining system that he called "unprecedented" in other Southern California dumps. It will consist of five barriers sandwiched between layers that are designed to detect leakage and collect liquids and gases.

Between that and a series of monitoring wells that will detect possible leaks into the groundwater, said Hutton, Gregory Canyon Ltd. should have no problem securing a water-quality permit.

"It vastly exceeds both the federal and state standards, and it's something we did to provide an enhanced level of protection," Hutton said of the lining system. "The likelihood of pollution from the landfill impacting the uses of groundwater are, in my opinion, nonexistent with all of the systems we have in place. It's an exceptionally secure site."

Hutton said that Gregory Canyon Ltd. has several meetings scheduled with the Regional Water Quality Control Board, after which a formal permit application will be filed. If the water board approves, the permit will most likely be issued within 140 days, or some time this summer.

Air is another issue

The quality of air is another point of contention that has held up landfill development. Pollutants from trash trucks, fumes from the waste and site dust are three key issues that concern officials with the Air Pollution Control District.

The application for a permit authorizing and enforcing air-quality standards for the proposed dump is in the research phase, said Hutton, adding that preliminary results from that study indicate the landfill will be able to meet the established standards.

"It addresses everything ---- dust, auto pollutants like nitrogen oxide, and air toxics, which would largely be a product of landfill gas," he said. "What we're really seeing is that the thing we have to control most is just good old dust."

Gregory Canyon Ltd. is in the process of identifying dust-prevention measures. The completed application will probably be submitted to the county this spring, said Hutton.

Dredging must be done

If approved, the landfill will be at the base of a set of hills south of Highway 76, with the San Luis Rey River running between the dump site and the highway. In order to allow customers to access the facility, a bridge must be built across the river, a process which requires approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Even though the actual area that will be dredged to place bridge pilings amounts to only a very small area, the corps of engineers must consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that no endangered species are threatened. Hutton said that Gregory Canyon Ltd. will submit its application to the corps in one to two months.

Approval for the bridge could be given as soon as this summer, he said, adding that it is in discussion with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and that the issue of environmental protection has arisen repeatedly, said Hutton.

"I understand that the river right now is pretty degraded," he said. "So we're going to be restoring the riverbed. About 72 or 73 percent of the Gregory Canyon property will go into permanent, deeded, habitat preservation."

The approximate 1,230 preserve would be furnished with an outside curator that would work with the dump's operator to ensure that "the landfill and the habitat coexist with each other," said Hutton.

Miscellaneous permits

Once the last three major permits have been secured, Gregory Canyon Ltd. will need several other smaller permits for the construction of an access road, a maintenance building, a water tank and a flare station where methane gas will be burned off.

"Those are ones that will generally follow, at the time that you begin actual construction," Hutton said. "We will, on an ongoing basis, start working on those, but that's a lot of detailed engineering work."

The permits for grading and other procedural operations aren't expected to hold up the project's estimated 2006 opening date.

While opponents such as Volturno with the Pala Indian Reservation will continue to battle the Gregory Canyon project, the landfill's proponents feel confident as they near the end of a decade of legal battles.

Hutton cites the fact that Gregory Canyon Ltd. has been able to obtain quotes on a $100 million environmental insurance policy as evidence that the site is more secure than its detractors say it is.

"No insurance company is going to give us a policy of that size if there's any risk," he said.

When it opens, Gregory Canyon officials said the landfill will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. It will be closed on Sundays. The landfill will not accept green waste, said Hutton, but may accept some on a limited basis to use as an alternative cover for the trash, which is usually buried under dirt every night.

"There will be a drop-off recycling facility, probably outside the landfill gate," Hutton continued. "We're also going to accept waste tires, and shred those either onsite or offsite and try to find a reuse for them."

Contact staff writer Tom Pfingsten at (760) 731-5799 or

Gregory Canyon gets boost from state board
The California Integrated Waste Management Board narrowly approved a solid-waste permit for the Gregory Canyon dump Tuesday, effectively removing the last major hurdle in the development of the long-contested landfill.

For opponents of the facility, who are concerned about traffic, noise and pollution at Gregory Canyon, the decision was disappointing. For the developer who has fought for years to gain the approval, the decision was a huge victory. 

"We're delighted," Gregory Canyon Ltd. spokeswoman Nancy Chase said in a telephone interview following the vote. "This is the biggest, most significant of the permits."

With Tuesday's approval, the landfill is one step closer to being built at the base of Gregory Mountain, which is two miles west of the Pala Indian Reservation and three miles east of the intersection of Highway 76 and Interstate 15. As the first new dump in San Diego County in more than 25 years, its "footprint" would occupy 320 acres of the 1,700-acre site.

"We now have three more permits to get," Chase continued, referring to approvals that need to be secured from the Regional Water Quality Control Board and the San Diego Air Pollution Control District, as well as a federal permit for the construction of a bridge and a road.

Chase said that Gregory Canyon Ltd. hopes to gain all three of the last approvals needed to begin construction on the $60 million landfill by June 2005.

Technically, because one director on the six-member panel recused herself, resulting in a vote of three in favor, two opposed, the decision will not be final until a deadline for the case expires Dec. 22.

Board spokesman Chris Peck said that even if the absent director, Cheryl Peace, were to weigh in with a negative vote, the decision would stand because a tie vote is counted in favor of the applicant.

The public hearing in Sacramento had been delayed until after the resolution of Proposition B, a measure on the Nov. 2 ballot that would have permanently blocked the construction of a landfill at Gregory Canyon. The measure was soundly defeated, though some contended its wording caused confusion for voters.

Among dozens of local residents who traveled to Sacramento to express disdain for the Gregory Canyon project was Barry Martin, director of water utilities for the city of Oceanside and a director with the San Diego County Water Authority.

"We've been concerned for over 14 years" about the quality of water in the San Luis Rey River, which runs next to the proposed landfill, said Martin, whose comments were broadcast over the Internet. "To be honest with you, it scares the heck out of me. Oceanside is lucky to have a local water supply; we're very concerned that this supply will be contaminated. We do not want to face this in Oceanside."

Operating from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, the landfill would accommodate up to 1 million tons of solid waste per year, with an estimated expiration date of 2034.

Pursuing a debate that has spanned several years, the environmental director for the Pala Band of Mission Indians, Lenore Volturno, was at the state waste agency's meeting Tuesday to register opposition to the proposed landfill.

Her argument, which followed a presentation by Jack Miller of Gregory Canyon, echoed many of the same protests as in the past, such as the infringement of the landfill's footprint onto land sacred to the Luiseno Indian Nation.

Among other concerns raised by Volturno were the potential increase in traffic, noise and air pollution. Besides threatening sacred American Indian land, claimed Volturno, it has been determined that there are "feasible alternatives" to locating the dump at the controversial site near the San Luis Rey River.

"This is not an appropriate location for a landfill and the board should reject the solid-waste facility permit," read the last slide of her presentation.

Volturno was not available for comment after the meeting.

Miller urged the board to support the landfill, focusing his presentation on the fact that county voters have approved the project twice ---- once in the 1994 effort to rezone the site, and again last month when they struck down Prop. B.

By passing Prop. C a decade ago, voters authorized the rezoning of the Gregory Canyon site to allow for the construction of a municipal solid-waste facility. This year's Prop. B would have repealed that zoning ordinance and placed a rural-use requirement on the property to prevent its development.

Contact staff writer Tom Pfingsten at (760) 731-5799 or

Landfill project advances

State panel approves Gregory Canyon permit

By Bill Ainsworth
December 15, 2004

SACRAMENTO – A permit for the proposed Gregory Canyon landfill was approved by the state's Integrated Waste Management Board yesterday, eliminating a major hurdle for the project.
A 3-2 majority of the voting board members, after hearing three hours of testimony, agreed that the proposed landfill had met the state's environmental standards. 

Rosalie Mule, a board member who voted for the permit, said growth is coming to San Diego County, "and we're going to have to address the solid waste needs." 

Richard Chase, project manager for Gregory Canyon, the investment partnership that has spent about $20 million so far to develop the landfill welcomed the decision. 

"We're obviously very pleased. They did the right thing," he said. 

The permit from the board, which oversees landfills and encourages recycling, is the most important for the project by far, Chase said. 

But the landfill still must be approved by agencies that regulate air pollution and water quality. It must also survive a court challenge to its environmental impact report. 

Barry Martin, water utilities director for Oceanside, which opposes the landfill, expressed disappointment, especially because the board is part of California's Environmental Protection Agency.
"They are here to protect the environment," he said. "I think they let us down." 

Mule was impressed with the public support for the project, which was demonstrated in two countywide election victories, in 1994 and last month. "The voters have spoken, not once, but twice," she said.
Mule and board members Carl Washington and Rosario Marin voted to approve the project. 

Board members Michael Paparian and Linda Moulton-Patterson voted against the permit, saying it would endanger sacred tribal sites, threaten water supplies, increase air pollution and harm endangered species.
They also said increasing recycling and expanding existing landfills in the county are better alternatives. "It's clear that there is no need for Gregory Canyon landfill," Paparian said. 

Cheryl Peace, a board member from San Diego County, recused herself, saying a firm that provides income to her husband, former state Sen. Steve Peace, had been hired by opponents of the landfill during the November ballot campaign. 

Peace said she had strong feelings on the issue, but she wanted to avoid "even the appearance of a conflict of interest." In an interview outside the board meeting room, she declined to discuss the issue further.
The proposed landfill in Pala is off state Route 76 about three miles east of Interstate 15. It would take up about 320 acres of a 1,770-acre parcel. The remaining acreage would become a nature preserve. 

If built, Gregory Canyon could accept a million tons of trash a year for about 30 years. North County, which now has no operating landfill, generates about 800,000 tons of garbage a year. 

"North County needs a landfill," Bill Hutton, a lawyer for project proponents told the board yesterday.
Hutton said the landfill would serve North County, but he refused a request from Paparian to accept a ban on accepting trash from outside the county. 

Cheryl Reiff, a volunteer coordinator for the Sierra Club's San Diego chapter, which opposes the landfill, said those positions are inconsistent. "That smells fishy to me," she said. 

In last month's campaign, opponents of the landfill charged that the developers plan on accepting trash trucked in from Los Angeles. 

The proposed landfill is next to Gregory Mountain and Medicine Rock, two sites considered sacred by the Pala Band of Mission Indians. Their representatives urged the board to deny the permit. 

"This is clearly a case of environmental injustice," said Lenore Volturno, director of environmental services for the Pala band. 

Other speakers said the landfill would be close to the San Luis Rey River and a major aquifer and would threaten water supplies used by the Pala tribe and some North County cities. 

"Oceanside is lucky enough to have a local water supply. In a desert, you know how precious that is," said Martin, the Oceanside utilities director. "We're very concerned that these water supplies will become contaminated." 

Proposition B on the Nov. 2 ballot was intended to block the landfill but was rejected by more than 63 percent of voters countywide. It was the most expensive ballot measure in county history, with both sides spending more than $4.3 million on their campaigns.

Judge rejects landfill suit as premature

By John Berhman
December 4, 2004

VISTA – In a tentative ruling, a judge has thrown out most of a lawsuit challenging the county's decision to grant a permit for the proposed Gregory Canyon landfill in Pala

Superior Court Judge Michael Anello concluded that the lawsuit was premature and that the attorney representing the Pala Band of Mission Indians should have waited for the state to approve the landfill permit before filing the suit. 

Gary Erbeck, director of the county's Department of Environmental Health, approved the permit for a solid-waste facility June 2, basing his decision on the environmental report the county approved in February 2003. The lawsuit was filed in July. 

A three-member review panel of the state Integrated Waste Management Board is scheduled to consider the county's approval of the landfill permit Monday in Sacramento. A final decision by the seven-member state board is scheduled for either Dec. 13 or 14. 

Anello issued a similar ruling Sept. 17, this one related to a challenge to the county's approval of the environmental report for the landfill. He concluded the suit had been filed prematurely.
Ted Griswold, the attorney representing the Pala band, said yesterday he was hoping for a ruling this time that would have declared that the environmental report was inadequate, thus forcing the county to reconsider its approval of the permit. 

"We were afraid if we waited too long to file our suit, and then the state approved the county permit, then it would have been too late for us to challenge the county's approval," Griswold said. "The law is a little unclear in this area, and we wanted to make sure we covered all of our bases." 

Attorney Wes Peltzer, who represents the landfill developer, said he believes the law is quite clear and that a judge cannot make a ruling on the county decision about the permit until it is considered final. 

The lawsuit is one aspect of a 15-year battle to block construction of the landfill, proposed for a rural canyon off state Route 76 about three miles east of its intersection with Interstate 15. Proposition B, a ballot measure intended to stop the landfill, was overwhelmingly defeated Nov. 2.

No on Prop. B...means handling North County trash sensibly

October 31, 2004

Let's talk trash. Each year North County has about a million tons of it, all of which must be trucked to distant landfills. For several years now, those tons have gone to East County, South County, Orange County, Ventura County – anywhere but North County. Yet the newest rumor raised in support of Proposition B, the ballot measure to stop a North County landfill already under way, is that it would accept trash from Los Angeles.

That sort of hypocrisy belongs out on the curb, awaiting the sanitation engineer.

Bag that rumor, too, for it's hype. The odds that Los Angeles trash will wind up in the Gregory Canyon landfill are about nil, for the same reason North County needs this landfill: The farther trash is trucked, the more costly disposal gets, not to mention the heavier freeway truck traffic and other environmental impacts.

This rumor is only the latest of the hyped criticisms bruited by opponents of the Gregory Canyon landfill, who are also the proponents of Proposition B to sack it. They have claimed as well that the landfill will contaminate drinking water, despoil tribal lands and natural habitat, overburden local roadways. Geologists refute the former. The casino of the Pala Band of Mission Indians refutes the latter.

The landfill owners' pledges of funding to widen the roadways and of dedicating more than 75 percent of the acreage to habitat preservation refute the latter. Arguing all this has made Proposition B the county's most expensive ballot measure ever. At last report, the Pala Band has poured about $2.5 million into it; the landfill owners, $1.8 million. As long as the lever on the tribe's 2,000 slots get pulled, it will make big bucks. And fill big Dumpsters. If the landfill proceeds, its owners will make money too, perhaps enough to recoup the $20 million they've put into it over 15 years of meeting ever stricter requirements to get it built.

That there's money to be made in trash seems to gall some landfill opponents. But the county lost boodles trying to handle trash itself, meaning county residents lost money. Another private landfill increases competition here, helping to keep costs down. Hence, the earlier passage by 68 percent of a proposition approving the Gregory Canyon landfill for trash disposal "in an environmentally sound and economically competitive manner."

If passed, Proposition B would reverse not only that previous vote but the progress made in fulfilling it. The result: a return to square one, with more years of fighting to site and build a landfill, more years of noisy opposition in North County NIMBYists, and who knows but more outcry from neighbors near and far at North County's sending its trash into their back yards.

North County generates trash. North County should handle that trash responsibly. Voting not to repeal a wise vote 10 years ago will accomplish that. Vote No on Proposition B.