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.

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