What happens when Benton Crossing Landfill closes
“No one likes trash; no one wants to talk about it or fund it, but trash keeps coming,” stated Mono County Supervisor Hap Hazard at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
He was referring to the Board’s discussion of a five-year lease with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) for the Benton Crossing Landfill, as well as an Addendum to the landfill’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
The County’s current lease with LADWP has expired and the two agencies have been operating under holdover status, which means they have been operating under the old terms. On Tuesday the Board reviewed and discussed the terms of a new, five-year lease. LADWP is the landlord and Mono County is the tenant on the property.
“LADWP is a stiff customer,” explained Assistant County Counsel Stacey Simon. “They’ve put in a lot of provisions that are very favorable to them.”
A portion of the lease’s provisions is focused on the need for the County to terminate operation at the Benton Crossing Landfill by 2023. The life expectancy of a landfill is determined by its capacity. Capacity is determined by a complicated set of calculations, according to Simon. Benton Crossing Landfill started being used in the 1920s or 30s, even before the County was using it. Since the state did not start permitting landfills until after that time, the exact date is unclear.
Currently, Benton Crossing is the only landfill in use for municipal solid waste in Mono County, according to Simon. There are other closed landfills throughout Mono County, many of them beneath the area’s current transfer stations.
Provisions of note in the lease include the following:
First, a requirement that the County verify annually to LADWP its ability to meet closure and post-closure maintenance and corrective action costs at the landfill.
Second, a requirement that the County advise LADWP by June 30, 2014, whether it intends to site a new landfill within Mono County or haul its waste out of the County after Jan. 1, 2023.
“The lease says that the County must show by 2014 the steps it will take to terminate the landfill,” Simon summarized.
“Time is of the essence,” said Supervisor Byng Hunt. “We have to get serious about what we are going to do.”
Both Hunt and Supervisor Vikki Bauer agreed that the first step should be to talk to the Town of Mammoth about the issue.
“We need to get out of the dump business as soon as possible,” said Supervisor Tim Hansen. “Right now, we have to do what we have to do and approve this [new lease], but I don’t want to stay out there until the deadline.”
“The permitting process for a new property will take 5-10 years,” Hazard said, again demonstrating the urgency of the issue.
Supervisor Larry Johnston was perturbed that “one entity is telling another what to do.” He asked if the County could condemn the land from the City of LA.
“It’s our garbage, why do they even want to hang onto it?” he questioned.
In order to condemn the land, the County would have to show that its use is a higher and better use than that of the City of LA, Simon explained.
Following the closure of the landfill, the County will still be on the hook for some fees in subsequent years, not to DWP but to the state.
“Under state law the County has an obligation to monitor the site for 30 years following its closure to make sure there is nothing problematic,” Simon said. Other fees will include installing the final cover over the landfill to make it look like it was never there.
The need for the Addendum to the EIR came when the County discovered trash outside the boundaries of Benton Crossing Landfill.
“Old [buried] trash was found outside of the lease boundary,” Simon explained to The Sheet. “We don’t know where it came from, but it requires the lease boundaries to be expanded.”
“It wasn’t the County’s trash,” explained Supervisor Johnston on Tuesday. “The violation is minor and there is no pollution.”
The trash was discovered when a monitoring well at the landfill was registering extremely high readings for toxins. “The well was actually in waste,” Simon explained.
Therefore the lease boundary must be expanded so that the County can put the well a proper number of feet away from the waste in order to receive proper readings.
“We did a thorough investigation and trenched around the perimeter [of the landfill] to look for other areas of waste,” Simon said. The first spot turned out to be the only problem and will require a small, punch-out addition to the boundary.
Due to the fact that there wasn’t any pollution from the discovered trash, an Addendum to the EIR is sufficient, Johnston said.
Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the Addendum and enter into the five-year lease with LADWP.