TAJIGUAS LANDFILL

Released June 21, 2000

 

INTRODUCTION

The recent public and political controversy concerning the Tajiguas landfill prompted the members of the Grand Jury to investigate and publish a report giving an adequate, informative and unbiased appraisal of the Tajiguas landfill as it presently exists.

This report covers the complex set of issues that must be considered in dealing with the long term handling and disposing of waste within Santa Barbara County.  In particular, it was decided to concentrate on the Tajiguas landfill with regards to:

·        Environment

·        Capacity and Life Expectancy

·        Recycling

·        Costs

CONCLUSIONS

The Grand Jury found that the Department of Public Health and the Department of Public Works have done an excellent job in keeping the landfill environmentally safe.  It was also concluded that the Tajiguas landfill was neither visually nor environmentally polluting.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Grand Jury Finding 1:  The in-situ water treatment zone past the collection trench at the Tajiguas landfill has not been built.

Public Works Department Response to Finding 1:  Public Works Department (PWD) agrees with the finding.

BOS Response to Finding 1:  The Board adopts Public Works’ response as the Board of Supervisors’ response  (Agrees).

Grand Jury Recommendation 1:  Public Works, Solid Waste Division, should try to get an in-situ water treatment zone past the collection trench as soon as possible.

PWD Response to Recommendation 1:  The recommendation will not be implemented because it is not warranted.  The Public Works, Solid Waste & Utilities Division proposed the in-situ water treatment zone in 1997 prior to several other projects that have been implemented to improve groundwater quality.  Currently, there are no outstanding regulatory issues with groundwater quality at the landfill.  The projects that have been implemented are controlling landfill impacts to groundwater such that Public Works does not recommend the additional expenditure of funds to install an in-situ treatment system.  The completed projects since 1997 include the following:

·        Lowering the submersible pumps in the collection trench;

·        Increasing the storage capacity for water recovered by the collection trench;

·        Installing a gas collection and recovery system; and

·        Installing a horizontal well dewatering system.

BOS Response to Recommendation 1:  The Board adopts Public Works’ response as the Board of Supervisors’ response (The recommendation will not be implemented because it is not warranted).

Grand Jury Finding 2:  Tajiguas Landfill was found to neither contribute to pollution nor pose a health threat to the people of Santa Barbara County.

Public Health Department (PHD) Response to Finding 2:  Agree.

BOS Response to Finding 2:  The Board adopts Public Health’s response  as the Board of Supervisor’s response (Agrees). 

Grand Jury Recommendation 2:  Maintain the current level of monitoring.

PHD Response to Recommendation 2:  The recommendation has been implemented.

With the passage of AB 1220 several years ago, the responsibility for the extensive regulations governing the operation of landfills has been spread among a variety of state and local agencies.  A listing of the agencies with regulatory authority at the Tajiguas landfill has been provided along with a brief description of their respective permit requirements. (Sections A-C)

A.  Local Enforcement Agency: Environmental Health Services/Solid Waste Facility Permit

The Tajiguas Landfill operates under the authority of Solid Waste Facility Permit 42-AA-0015 issued by the Local Enforcement Agency (LEA), which is the Santa Barbara County Health Department, Environmental Health Services Division.  The California Integrated Waste Management Board has also concurred in the issuance of this permit.  The Solid Waste Facility Permit contains a number of specifications and prohibitions.  For example, it identifies the types of waste that may be accepted, places a daily limit on the volume of incoming waste, stipulates where the waste may be placed and how high it can be stacked, as well as the total capacity of the facility.

In addition to prohibition and specifications, the solid waste facility permit requires that the landfill be operated according to strict criteria.  These criteria are collectively referred to as State Minimum Standards.

In order to assess the operator’s compliance with State Minimum Standards, LEA staff performs monthly inspections at all landfills operating in the county, including Tajiguas.  These inspections are very thorough and include observation and evaluation of the following:

Record keeping

·        The separation and handling of hazardous wastes

·        Handling and disposal of waste

·        Condition of waste hauling vehicles

·        Site drainage and grading

·        Bird and litter control

·        Landfill gas migration

As waste material decomposes, it produces a gas that consists primarily of methane.  Methane gas can develop into an explosion hazard if it exceeds certain concentrations.  Consequently, regulations require monitoring for methane inside structures at the landfill and at the landfill property boundary to determine if methane concentrations exceed specified limits.

The operator has installed a continuous gas monitoring system with sensors located in the primary landfill structures.  During the course of routine inspections conducted by LEA staff, hand held gas detection units are used to double-check methane gas levels inside the buildings at the facility.  The operator has installed special gas monitoring probes around the perimeter of the property.  These probes are sampled quarterly by the operator. The results are then forwarded to the LEA.  Additionally, a representative number of these monitoring probes are field sampled by LEA staff each month.

Due to its sensitive location along the coast and the fact that the area is subject to high wind conditions, special efforts must be made by the landfill operator to keep dust and litter from blowing off-site.  To that end, the LEA receives quarterly reports from the operator that outline their on-going dust and litter control efforts. 

In general, the LEA (the Environmental Health Services Division of the Public Health Department) has found the Tajiguas Landfill to be regularly in compliance with conditions and requirements of Solid Waste Facility Permit No. 42-AA-0015.

B.  Regional Water Quality Control Board: Waste Discharge Requirements (WDRs)

Surface and groundwater quality issues fall under the statutory responsibility of the Regional Water Quality Control Board (Water Board).  The permit issued to the operator of the Tajiguas Landfill is called Waste Discharge Requirement Order No. 93-69.  This Order contains specifications, water quality protection standards and provisions that are intended to mitigate and avoid the impacts associated with waste disposal on water quality.

With regards to Tajiguas, Waste Discharge Requirement Order No. 93-69 specifies:

·        Discharge prohibitions

·        Landfill operational and design standards

·        Water quality protection standards

Compliance with the operational and design standards is determined through annual inspections by Water Board staff.  These inspections are generally performed during the rainy season or after a rain event.  Compliance with water quality standards is determined by the results of an extensive sampling program.

Attached to Waste Discharge Requirement Order No. 93-69 is Monitoring and Reporting Program 93-69 which specifies:

·        The location where samples are to be collected.

·        How frequently these samples are to be collected.

·        The types of contaminants each sample is to be analyzed for.

In addition, Monitoring and Reporting Plan 93-69 identifies the sampling and analytical methods to be used, the records to be maintained by the operator and the reports that the operator must submit to the Water Board.

 The Regional Water Quality Control Board staff has informed the LEA that they have generally found that the Tajiguas Landfill is in compliance with all aspects of Waste Discharge Requirement Order No 93-69.

C.  Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District Permit to Operate

As mentioned previously, as the waste material decomposes, it generates gas.  Landfill gas consists primarily of methane but may contain traces of other compounds such as vinyl chloride or tetrachloroethylene depending on the composition of the buried waste.

In order to mitigate the health and safety risks associated with landfill gas, the operator installed a gas collection and flare system.  This system consists of a network of gas collection wells and conveyance pipes that collect gas from the landfill and direct it to a flare unit that burns the gas much like a pilot light.  Because this flare represents an emission source, the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District (the District) determined that it was necessary for the operator to obtain approval for an operating permit from the District.  

The permit from the District, Permit to Operate 9788, is similar in intent and form to the Waste Discharge Requirements issued by the Water Board.  It is a very comprehensive document that provides an engineering evaluation of the gas control process and equipment.  It identifies the pollutants of concern associated with the burning of landfill gas and sets performance standards, such as the quality of the emissions from the gas flare unit.

This permit stipulates how the combustion process is to be monitored and how frequently.  It states where and how often “finished” product samples are to be collected to assure compliance with the established performance standards.

Finally, the permit requires that the operator submit a plan detailing the maintenance and calibration schedule for all of the collection and flare process monitoring equipment such as flow meters.  Records are to be kept on site and available for review by District personnel when they perform their annual inspections of the facility.  A gas energy recovery facility has been constructed and will soon be connected in to the gas collection system.

The Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District has generally found the Tajiguas Landfill gas collection and flare system to be in compliance with all conditions specified in Permit to Operate No. 9788.

Conclusion

As it was stated at the beginning of this report, the regulations governing the operations at landfills are very extensive.  Each agency with oversight authority issues permits containing numerous prohibitions, specifications and operating procedures designed to assure to the greatest extent possible, that the landfill will not represent a threat to the environment or public health and safety.  In the current regulatory environment, it is more likely that these regulations will become more stringent in the future, rather than less.  Consequently, the level of monitoring at the Tajiguas landfill by Environmental Health Services as the LEA, will be maintained to reflect the regulations and permit conditions in effect at the time.

While the LEA cannot speak for the two other jurisdictional agencies having regulatory oversight over the Tajiguas Landfill, applicable regulations implemented by those agencies are in effect at this time.  Permit conditions or waste discharge requirements may be modified from time to time by those agencies and their respective boards;  as a result, the level of regulatory oversight of other agencies will be reflective of regulations and permit conditions in effect at the time

BOS Response to Recommendation 2:  Maintain the current level of monitoring.  (Agrees).

Grand Jury Finding 3:  The Tajiguas landfill was opened in 1967 as a 100 year holding site. In the past 32 years, approximately half of its capacity has been used.  With careful re-cycling, the site will be adequate for another 60 years.

PWD Response to Finding 3:  The Public Works Department agrees with the finding. Careful (increased) recycling will reduce the community’s reliance upon the Tajiguas Landfill.  60 years of physical capacity exist at the site.  However, environmental review, regulatory permits and policy direction would be necessary.

BOS Response to Finding 3:  The Board adopts Public Works’ response as the Board of Supervisors’ response, and would like to add the following clarification.  Although there could be 60 years of physical capacity at the site with increased recycling efforts, the landfill would have to be expanded, which would require significant environmental reviews and regulatory permits.  Additionally, based upon other considerations, such as proximity to the coast, it is desirable to pro-actively evaluate alternative sites.

Grand Jury Recommendation 3:  Utilize the site to its capacity until the year 2060. Continue with the effort to find another site away from the coast.  If and only when this is economically feasible, consider moving the waste operations to that site.

PWD Response to Recommendation 3:  Due to the complexities of this Grand Jury recommendation, the Public Works Department will respond to each of the following sentences that comprise the recommendation:

Utilize the site to its capacity until the year 2060.  This recommendation will not be implemented because it is not reasonable at this time.  Solid waste technologies are constantly improving and regulatory activities are constantly changing such that committing the County now to use the Tajiguas landfill site for the next 60 years is not reasonable.

Continue with the effort to find another site away from the Coast.  This recommendation has been implemented.  In August 1999, the Board of Supervisors directed staff to begin a study to site a new regional landfill within the County’s borders.  Public Works staff indicated that the development of a new landfill site could take between 10 to 15 years to accomplish.  Based on the findings of the study, a strategic plan will be developed to guide future efforts such as specific site analysis,  property acquisition,  CEQA compliance, acquisition of local and state permits, design and construction, and a financial plan. 

Many criteria are considered in the siting of a new facility.  In April 2000, the Board directed staff to proceed with a proposed landfill siting process.  The process includes:

·        interacting with local stakeholders through publicized workshops,

·        preparing technical siting criteria,

·        identifying potential sites using the criteria,

·        ranking the sites, and

·        presenting the potential sites to the Board of Supervisors. 

This process will be completed in early Spring 2001.  Given the time frame for new landfill siting as stated above, the Board directed staff to prepare an Environmental Impact Report for the expansion of the Tajiguas landfill to provide 15 years of disposal capacity for Santa Barbara County.  It is also likely within the next fifteen years that new and improved technologies will be developed and solid waste regulation will change.

If and only when this is economically feasible, consider moving the waste operations to that site.  This recommendation will not be implemented because it is not warranted.  Although economic feasibility is one of the most critical criteria in selecting or changing a landfill location, it is not the only criteria.  The County Board of Supervisors will have to consider a broad range of criteria including but not limited to security, regulatory permitting, environmental constraints and community concerns prior to making such a decision.

BOS Response to Recommendation 3:  Due to the complexities of this Grand Jury recommendation, the Board of Supervisors will respond to each of the following sentences that comprise the recommendation.

Utilize the site to its capacity until the year 2060.  The Board adopts Public Works’ response as the Board of Supervisors’ response (This recommendation will be not be implemented because it is not reasonable at this time).  Solid waste technologies are constantly improving and regulatory activities are constantly changing such that committing the County now to use the Tajiguas landfill site for the next 60 years is not reasonable.

Continue with the effort to find another site away from the Coast.  The Board adopts Public Works’ response as the Board of Supervisors’ response (This recommendation has been implemented).

If and only when this is economically feasible, consider moving the waste operations to that site.  The Board adopts Public Works’ response as the Board of Supervisors’ response (This recommendation will not be implemented because it is not warranted).  There are other important issues that need to be taken into consideration in addition to economic feasibility, such as regulatory permitting, environmental constraints and community concerns.  The Board would also like to note that at its regularly scheduled meeting of August 3, 1999,  The Board directed staff to develop another County Landfill site as a long-term disposal solution, with the goal that the Tajiguas Landfill be closed within 15 years or sooner.

Grand Jury Finding 4:  Recycling efforts are currently 40 tons per day short of the 50 percent of the 1990 baseline goal as mandated by AB 939.

PWD Response to Finding 4:  The Public Works Department agrees with the finding with the following clarification.  The unincorporated area of Santa Barbara County needs to divert an additional 70 tons per day in order to achieve the 50 percent diversion mandate.  The 70 tons per day can be broken down to 40 tons on the South Coast and 30 tons from the North County.

BOS Response to Finding 4:  The Board adopts Public Works’ response as the Board of Supervisors’ response .

Grand Jury Recommendation 4:  Build a Material Recycling Facility (MRF) either at Tajiguas or a locally developed MRF, whichever is economically feasible, as recommended by the CAC report.

PWD Response to Recommendation 4:  The recommendation requires further analysis.  The report prepared by the Community Advisory Committee in 1999 recommended the development of a MRF, composting facility, and transfer station located at the Tajiguas Landfill as an alternative to expansion.  In addition, in August 1999 the Board of Supervisors voted to not include the CAC proposal in the Tajiguas expansion EIR and directed staff to evaluate the components individually. 

More recently, the Community Environmental Council (CEC) proposed the construction of a MRF for the South Coast.  A conceptual proposal was made at subsequent Board of Supervisor and City of Santa Barbara City Council meetings.  The Board and the City Council have directed their staffs to evaluate the economic feasibility of the facility.  The results of this analysis should be available prior to December 1, 2000.  A copy of the analysis will be provided to the Grand Jury.  Assuming the results of the analysis are favorable and Board and City Council concur, the next steps would be to adopt an agreement with CEC to secure the flow of recyclable material to the facility.  Design and construction of the facility will require Land Use review and approval from City of Santa Barbara.

BOS Response to Recommendation 4:  The Board adopts Public Works’ response as the Board of Supervisors’ response.  A report will be provided to the Grand Jury prior to December 1, 2000.

2000-2001 Grand Jury Comments

The Grand Jury Report highlights three major areas concerning the closure of the Tajiguas Landfill.  They are:

1.      There is enough space for approximately sixty (60) more years of use at the present site

2.      State sponsored and other water tests have shown contaminants do not warrant closure of this facility. 

3.      The cost to close the old facility and to maintain it for thirty (30) years as required by law, even if a new facility is identified, is extremely high.

In light of these three facts, agreed to by the affected agencies, it is difficult to understand the decision not to continue using the Tajiguas landfill.