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City: Despite Zero Waste Goal, Miramar Landfill Needs To Be Expanded

 December 10, 2019 at 10:23 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 Once most of us throw something in the trash, we don't think much about it. But that may change as the Miramar landfill is expected to become visible to more people. A plan to allow the landfill to pile waste 25 feet higher. Got a key approval last week. Lisa Wood principal planner with the city and its landfill expert joins us to discuss why the expansion is needed. Lisa, welcome. Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here. So first, what was the key approval the project got last week? So last week the city granted the land use permit, the site development permit for the project. So will this expansion impact the air quality around the landfill? So there was a sequence analysis done and the sequence analysis determined that there would be no new impacts to any of the issue areas. So no new air quality impacts and even the visual impacts, although it will be 25 feet higher, it's a very small sliver compared to where it is now. Speaker 1: 00:55 And so those impacts were determined not to be significant. What's the city currently doing to mitigate, um, methane gas and other gases that might be admitted from the landfill. So of course the city is constantly trying to improve, uh, how the landfill is operated and the regulations are modified. And so, uh, continual improvement is definitely asked for. So one of the things that we've done is we've just installed 111 new gas Wells and that will significantly improve the capture rate of the methane that's generated. We've also modified how we do our daily cover in the past, in order to save landfill capacity, we used a tarping system where we would, at the end of the day, we would tarp the waste. And then in the morning when it was time to place more waste on top of the old waste, we would remove the tarps. And we've modified that so that the tarps are no longer removed. Speaker 1: 01:50 Instead, a sacrificial liner is put down that is never pulled up and that helps reduce any odor impacts that might be associated with the landfill. And what efforts are there to reduce ground soil contamination? So the ground soil contamination, we have a really good track record there. Um, the West Miramar landfill, uh, phase two area, which is the area that we're talking about is the only portion of the landfill that is proposed for the height increase. Um, that area of the landfill has a very effective liner system throughout all the area where we're working. And the monitoring that we do that we do at the landfill has not shown any contamination at all. So the, the liner system that we are using and the, the steps that we take for storm water control are um, showing to be effective. Now the storm water program, we do also continually modify that and we are working to improve that. Speaker 1: 02:42 So tell me why is this expansion needed? Doesn't San Diego have a goal to get to zero waste by 2040 a hundred percent? We are definitely have a goal to increase the waste diversion. Um, the current scheduled closure date for the Miramar landfill is 2024 which our business is literally around the corner. As you can imagine, these permits don't come quickly and permitting a new landfill is, well, it's something that the city is most likely not going to embark on. Um, so, so it is very, very important to make this landfill last as long as possible. And the current projection is 2024 with the proposed height increase, which is just a modest height increase, as you mentioned, of 25 feet in the phase two area only and that would extend the life of the landfill by four years to 2028. So it's not a huge increase in capacity. Speaker 1: 03:35 And we do want to focus on increasing the diversion. We don't want anything going in the landfill that can be kept out of the landfill. We want to work on as much diversion as possible. And recycling is one of the key ways that we do diversion. Um, but if you take a look at the recycling facilities that we have, the materials recovery facilities that take, for example, the waste that comes out of the residential blue bands, they don't, they're not able to recycle 100% of what's in those blue bands. So all of those recycling facilities have residuals that have to go somewhere. And so even if everything was going to a recycling facility, not everything that goes to the recycling facility has an actual market. And so some of those, those materials, um, we call it wish recycling. When people put something in the blue bin, that's not actually one of the items that can be accepted. Speaker 1: 04:29 And unfortunately there are quite a few of those items that cannot actually be recycled because they don't have a market. So we, we do need to have that room in the landfill for the residuals, even just the residuals from the recycling facilities. So what's the plan after this landfill is full, given that it is the city's only remaining landfill. So we do continually improve, um, it's called an air utilization factor. We get better and better at that. Um, and it may be possible that in the future they can get another, the city will be able to get another height increase. I don't know. Certainly the, the liner as it exists now could support another height increase. So that's something that can be investigated. But at some point, Miramar will cease to be able to accept waste at that time. The city's other option is, uh, there are two other major landfills in the region. Speaker 1: 05:20 Both of them are operated by a private company. One of them is located on Oh, Ty Mesa and the other one is called the Sycamore landfill. And that is located within the city of San Diego out towards Santi. And the city has a franchise agreement with the Sycamore landfill operators, allied slash Republic. And uh, one of the components of that franchise agreement is they are required to accept city of San Diego waste on a preferred basis. It would be more expensive. It would be a longer haul, it would be more greenhouse gas emissions. But it is the option that is available to the city. The time mayor Mark closes, how can city residents help extend the life of the mere Mar landfill? Uh, so the first thing is please put in your blue bin, specifically the items that we accept in the blue band. If we have low rates of contamination in the blue band, then that means the materials recovery facilities. Speaker 1: 06:17 That's sort out the materials and bundle them up for shipping to recycling facilities, have more options as to where they can market them. And then the second thing is, you know, we do want to also reduce what goes into the black band and what ends up at the landfill. So please, when you're purchasing items, do think about how much packaging is involved in this, how long will this item last? And try to go for more durable items, try to go for items where you can use them for as long as possible. Single use items, throw away items, they may be very, very convenient, but we pay a high environmental price for them. What has to happen now for the expansion to move forward? So, uh, in addition to the land use permit, there are several additional permits that are necessary. Um, the air pollution control district has permits, there are water permits to get, and of course the landlord is the Marine Corps, so there has to be at least modification to allow it. So there are several additional approvals that are required. All right. I had been speaking with city of San Diego, principal planner, Lisa Wood. Lisa, thank you so much. Thank you. Really appreciate the opportunity.

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A plan to allow the city of San Diego's only landfill to pile waste 25 feet higher got a key approval last week.
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