There are many reasons why the massively-expanded John Smith Road Landfill proposal is a huge risk to San Benito. An important one that has not been discussed is how it can contaminate the county and the water supply with hazardous waste from other counties.
We should not be destroying our landscapes, tearing up our roads, delaying traffic on roads when parents just want to get home to their families, to provide a place for waste from Silicon Valley and elsewhere. Hazardous waste just makes it all the more dangerous.
County officials, incorrectly, have dollar signs in their eyes from making San Benito a waste importer from other California counties (they fail to consider adequately the effect of roadway destruction costs from heavy landfill trucks). They will also say that they are only advocating for massive imports of household waste, not hazardous waste, but they’re wrong.
In the fall of 2021, a legal settlement involving most California counties demonstrated that Ulta Beauty Salons, a chain throughout the state, had been illegally dumping hazardous waste into the trash. Crucially, San Benito County was not one of the counties that received compensation for this dumping, even though Santa Clara County, where the Ulta Beauty waste originated, was involved and compensated. Many other counties that may send waste to San Benito also took action to protect themselves, but not San Benito.
What does this tell us? On one level, we should be very concerned about the assurances we will receive that toxics and hazardous wastes will not be imported along with the vast expansion of imported waste and garbage trucks. That waste was already not supposed to be imported, but it was put in the trash of the counties that send their waste here anyway.
We have good reason to think that hazardous waste is presumably in the landfill now, hopefully not leaking into our groundwater below instrument detection levels. Does it make sense to more than double the daily waste disposals on a promise of safety that appears to already have been broken?
On a broader level, there’s a commonsense lesson about this, a simple lesson – don’t do foolish stuff. Is making San Benito a waste magnet for California smart, or foolish? What about tearing up our roads with more and more garbage trucks weighing 80,000 pounds, or leaving local drivers stuck in traffic behind more and more trucks?
What about destroying nearly 200 acres of the rural open countryside that makes San Benito special, for a landfill. If all that strikes you as foolish, it might be unsurprising that other foolish, dangerous, and unintended consequences, like illegal hazardous waste imports, can also happen.