The group Don’t Dump on San Benito holds an information forum

John Smith landfill future meeting discusses traffic, toxins and alternatives to expansion.

About two dozen people showed up at the Garden Shoppe, 364 7th Street in Hollister on August 2 for a forum presented by the grassroots activist group Do not throw on San Benito regarding the expansion project John Smith Disclaimer.

Don’t Dump on San Benito “started with a few dedicated residents who were passionate about protecting their community,” according to the group’s website. People in the group of about 120″ attend county briefings on the landfill expansion, research, ask questions, knock on doors to educate neighbors and discuss how to prevent expansion of the landfill to have a negative impact on their community.

That of the county draft environmental impact report for the expansion of the landfill was published on July 15. Residents have 45 days to respond to concerns and objections by emailing Stan Ketchum at [email protected]. The massive document is 485 pages with several addenda, including one of 720 pages, and is filled with jargon and vague statements that most residents are reluctant to read, let alone respond to, said Don’t Dump on San Benito.

The group said the EIR is so difficult to understand that they split it among five of its members to read specific sections and then report back at the August 2 meeting.

Maureen Nelson, co-chair of the group, said the county owns the land where the landfill is located. Currently, the landfill occupies 95.16 acres and the county wishes to expand it by an additional 388 acres. Of the 95 acres, 58 acres contain waste. Five of those acres are for Class 1 hazardous waste, which has been closed off and inaccessible to the public.

Of the proposed 488 acres, 195 acres would be used for waste, with the remainder used for roads and a buffer zone.

Nelson said the expansion would raise the landfill’s elevation to 949 feet above sea level, well above the surrounding mountain range’s 880 feet. She said that starting April 1, the landfill could no longer accept waste from outside the county. She said that before then, the landfill was accepting 1,000 tons a day. Of this, 200 to 240 tons came from county residents.

Waste Management previously told BenitoLink that while the county had a 1,000 ton per day limit, it averaged about 800 tons per day when accepting waste out of the county. About 80% was out-of-county trash.

If the expansion is approved by the San Benito County Board of Supervisors, the landfill will accommodate 2,300 tons of trash plus 575 tons of recyclables per day.

The move would extend the life of the landfill to 2072, she said. After that date, it would remain open for another 15 years to serve the county only. Nelson said the EIR must, by law, include alternatives to the proposed expansion. They range from supervisors refusing to pass the expansion and only taking county waste, to a “they would expand the landfill to a smaller landfill footprint”. She said the language is so vague, the intention is incomprehensible.

She said another alternative, should the expansion fail, is to cross John Smith Road, where the county owns an additional 101 acres, and establish a landfill to the south. The land was previously proposed for a resource recovery site, but opposition from a small group of residents around Heatherwood Estates caused the project to fail. A new landfill would be established there, but the county says it will need an additional 67 acres to store soil that will be used to cover the waste.

The last alternative, she says, is the most confusing. The landfill would become a transfer station, where waste would be brought to the landfill and then trucked to another unknown landfill, presumably outside the county.

“The scare tactic is ‘we don’t know where it’s going to go and we don’t know how much it’s going to cost,’ but you can bet the price you paid goes up,” she said.

Other areas of concern covered by speakers included, according to the presentation:

  • The 2017 traffic study showed that there were approximately 500 vehicles daily towards the landfill. The daily limit is 600.
  • 78% of waste comes from outside the department
  • There will be more trucks, noise, diesel pollution and potholes on the roads.
  • Groundwater contamination from toxic waste is increasing and spreading to nearby communities, such as Heatherwood Estates and eventually Santana Ranch.
  • In the 1960s, when the landfill started operating, there was no protective lining and waste of all categories was mixed together. This layer of waste is always there and releases toxins.
  • There will be a loss of natural landscape, habitat and wildlife.

BenitoLink solicited feedback from the five county supervisors. Betsy Dirks, whose district includes the dump, said she could not reveal her stance on the dump until she cast her vote. During this time, she said she was working through the EIR. She said she looked forward to hearing from the community at the county hall on August 22.

“There will also be an opportunity for oral public comment at the discharge standing committee on August 26 at 6:30 p.m.,” she told BenitoLink, adding that she doesn’t think 45 days is long enough for the public responds and that it has already asked to extend the deadline to 60 days.

Supervisor Bea Gonzalez said: “The 400+ page EIR report is so extensive that it will take me longer to review it in its entirety. I realize that the 45 day window is required by law, however, in my opinion, 45 days is not enough to resolve an issue of this magnitude. I encourage residents to attend any town hall meetings or informational meetings that are held to educate our residents.

Supervisors Kollin Kosmicki and Bob Tiffany said they are waiting to get all the facts and public input before making their decision on expanding the landfill.

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Jennifer C. Burleigh