Housing / Land Use

State department approves modified landfill permit

The landfill capacity will increase by 443,000 cubic yards.

The California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) approved on Aug. 30 a request submitted by the John Smith Road Landfill operator to increase waste capacity by 443,000 cubic yards. 

In the staff report, the agency staff recommended approving the request that would increase the current allowed slope in which trash is compacted. The John Smith Road Landfill permit request was reviewed by CalRecycle Aug. 17. and had until Oct. 22 to take action. 

Had the permit been denied, San Benito County would have stopped accepting out-of-state trash per the landfill operating agreement because of a 15-year in-county trash capacity threshold, which was reached earlier this summer.  

“Staff has determined that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements have been met to support issuance,” the staff report states. 

This summer the county gave a temporary extension to operator Waste Solutions Group to accept outside trash until Sept. 19. 

The added capacity means that San Benito County could continue to accept in- and out-of-county waste for another year. The additional capacity is equal to the size of a professional football field (124 yards by 53 yards) filled seven feet deep in waste. 

The landfill is estimated to reach capacity by 2025 at the current rate for in- and out-of-county trash, according to the CalRecycle staff report. The landfill is limited to accepting 1,000 tons of trash per day. 

As a long-term solution, the county is separately considering a 388-acre expansion which is under evaluation for environmental impact by Douglas Environmental. The county has hired Grassetti Environmental Consulting to perform a third-party review. 

The county landfill website states the environmental impact report (EIR) includes issues such as aesthetics, air and odor control, geology, hazards, public health and safety, traffic and greenhouse gas emissions. The county did not respond to BenitoLink’s request for comment on when the draft EIR will be out for public review. 

The expansion will not come without challenges, as a group of residents has voiced its opposition to using the landfill for out-of-county trash and expansion of the project because of water contamination and other environmental concerns. Though the group began among Santana Ranch residents, a new development near the landfill, yard signs are popping up on front lawns throughout Hollister opposing out-of-county trash. 

 

The lawn sign posted throughout the Santana Ranch neighborhood against accepting out-of-county trash. Photo by Noe Magaña.
The lawn sign posted throughout the Santana Ranch neighborhood against accepting out-of-county trash. Photo by Noe Magaña.

According to the staff report, CalRecycle mailed public notices in English and Spanish to all property owners within 1,000 feet of the landfill and other requesting members of the public. It also posted notices at the landfill, San Juan Bautista City Hall, San Benito County Resource Management Agency and the San Benito County Free Library. 

According to Google Maps, the nearest residential neighborhood is about 3,000 feet away from the landfill. The nearest residential unit is about 2,000 feet away. 

The agency said it received three written comments from residents who opposed the out-of-county waste, two comments opposing the expansion, and an additional comment against accepting foam packaging material.

In response, staff say that CalRecycle has no authority over the question of out-of-county trash; that the expansion efforts are separate from the slope permit; and that the landfill is permitted to accept foam packaging materials as its part of non-hazardous solid waste. 

 

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Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. A San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily.