Monday, February 7, 2011

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

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