Proposal would dump mountain of trash near Salton Sea
Plans for a huge landfill expansion under consideration near the Salton Sea would seek to bring in waste from across Southern California, creating a literal mountain of garbage and an expanded parade of waste-hauling vehicles on local roads.
Burrtec Waste & Recycling Services wants to significantly expand the Salton City landfill it leases off Highway 86, about 40 miles south of Indio.
Those plans, if approved, could dramatically transform the small community off the Salton Sea's western shores and have repercussions throughout the region:
It would increase an 8-acre landfill to more than 287 acres.
Collection of municipal solid waste would increase from 50 tons per day to up to 6,000 tons per day, with garbage potentially coming from Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, San Bernardino and Riverside counties as well as Imperial County.
The height of the landfill would increase from 45 feet to 250 feet high. Required environmental impact studies as part of the plan conclude that the impact on the area's aesthetic are “significant and unavoidable.”
Greenhouse gas emissions from the expanded landfill would exceed the amount of carbon sequestered there, and is also deemed a “significant and unavoidable” impact of the project.
At peak operation, the expanded landfill would generate daily trips of waste-hauling trucks — including huge, 22-ton-hauling transfer trucks — that would have the equivalent traffic delay impact of 2,330 passenger cars added to Highway 86 daily.
It would potentially add 88 additional large waste transfer truck trips daily in Riverside County at peak operation, presumably in the Coachella Valley along Interstate 10 and heading south on Highway 86.
“This is going to turn us into Mount Trashmore,” said Salton City resident Everett English.
Another resident of the community, Petra Neseth, imagines the future and shudders.
“Two hundred and fifty transfer trucks, traveling round-trip and coming from everywhere — San Diego, Los Angeles and all the counties around; open 24 hours a day with bright lights,” she said. “There will be oodles of seagulls, I suppose, and rodents and flies. And those trucks stink something awful; driving behind them will be an ordeal.”
That kind of truck traffic, English said, will mean “you're seeing a (waste-hauling) truck every two minutes.”
And the proposed mitigation — Burrtec paying to install a traffic light at the landfill's entrance, and paying a portion of the costs to install traffic lights at intersections along the highway — “exacerbates a lot of other issues and problems,” English said.
Burrtec is one of the largest private trash haulers in the region and contracts with every Coachella Valley city but Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs.
Efforts to reach executives of Burrtec for comment last week were unsuccessful. No one from the Fontana-based company returned numerous phone messages from The Desert Sun last week.
The Imperial County Planning Commission is slated to consider the plan at its Oct. 12 meeting in El Centro.
The expanded landfill would take the decades-old existing facility, which is unlined, and include it within the new, lined facility.
Imperial County leases the landfill to Burrtec. In December 2008, the board of supervisors approved a 99-year lease with Burrtec to operate the landfill and expand it.
Under terms of the agreement, Burrtec will pay the county $5 million and at least $500,000 each year, with the amount contingent on the amount of waste going to the landfill.
County planning division manager Sean Moore said county officials intend to use the money to close three other landfills in the county at or near capacity. But how the money is ultimately used is up to county supervisors, he said.
Salton City and the surrounding area has a population of about 3,700, according to the 2010 Census, with many people living in widely scattered settlements along the arid western shore of the lake.
Linda True lives about eight miles from the proposed expanded landfill site.
“I'm not opposed to a garbage dump — I mean, we have garbage,” she said. “But I am opposed to bringing in all this garbage from other counties, making it a huge thing, and its impact on our environment.”
And at least one of the counties Burrtec hopes to entice to use an expanded Salton City facility — Riverside County — doesn't sound like it's ready to become a customer.
“It's our desire to keep our waste within the county, and we have significant capacity within the county,” said Hans Kernkamp, general manager and chief engineer of the Riverside County Waste Management Department.
The county uses revenues from local waste disposal for activities such as combating illegal dumping and household hazardous waste collection events, he said.
Burrtec's Salton City project will affect one of the few thriving activities in the area, off-road riding, English said. And it has the potential to impact a proposed large residential development just up the road, Travertine Point, which in turn “is going to kill our growth,” he said.
“I don't consider anybody bad guys in this, Burrtec least of all,” he said. “They want a project, and I think they are good people.
“But these projects can damage our present and future economy.”