As the EIR review process progresses, the amount of misinformation — sometimes intentional, sometimes just ill-informed — intensifies. Yet, the Glendale City Council has an obligation to all Glendale residents and businesses — as well as regional stakeholders, as part of the larger integrated waste management system — to make policy based on rational fact. Thus, the City of Glendale needs to separate the myth from the reality. The City of Glendale’s Communications & Community Relations Department has held numerous public hearings, published opinion editorials, utilized various social media platforms and a Rumor Page to help mitigate the misinformation being provided by misinformed individuals and groups regarding the expansion of the Scholl Canyon Landfill.
One of the accusations made was regarding the motivation behind the expansion. The proposed expansion of the landfill is NOT about maximizing revenue. Although the maximum daily tonnage allowable under the current permit is 3,400 tons per day (TPD), it has been many years since waste deposits at Scholl Canyon Landfill have been anywhere near that figure. Even prior to the Great Recession, the average TPD was around 1,400. During the Recession, Scholl had been processing less than 1,000 TPD. The City’s good faith is demonstrated on this front in two ways: 1) the EIR uses the 1,400 TPD as its baseline, not the permitted 3,400 tons; and 2) even during the darkest days of the Recession, the Glendale City Council refused to open the waste shed for more trash as thus increase revenue from the landfill. Today, the average daily tonnage is over 1,300 tons per day (very close to the baseline 1,400 tons used in the EIR). In general, Glendale’s motivation in processing the EIR is not to maximize revenue; if it were, Glendale could have increased the tonnage being processed at the landfill.
Some environmental concerns have been raised as well, which have been taken out of context or are just wrong. For example, concerns about vinyl chloride levels at the landfill during the 1980s are being used today to scare residents into opposing the landfill. In reality, researchers noted the elevated levels on their own and determined that detected levels were well below regulatory limits. Any insinuation linking residents contracting cancer as a result of the tiny amounts of vinyl chloride detected is downright dishonest and extremely misleading. By comparison, it would be equally misleading to tell individuals that they will get cancer from driving a new car, because elevated levels of vinyl chloride are common inside of new cars. Similarly, the “unavoidable” air impacts cited in the EIR are based on the originally permitted 3,400 TPD level. In fact, the average daily tonnage even before the Recession – as well as the EIR baseline – was only 1,400 TPD. At this reduced level, the atmospheric impacts are not alarming or particularly distressing.
There are also concerns regarding the immediate expansion of the landfill. There are no immediate plans to expand. The consistent message from the City has been that the landfill operation is but one element of the integrated waste management system. The City of Glendale is focusing efforts on alternative methods for disposal as they become available. In the future, conversion technologies (CT’s) will play a significantly greater role as they are perfected and permitted.
Glendale is a progressive leader in the arena of waste management. Many cities, including the City of Los Angeles, have enacted a zero-waste goal similar to Glendale’s plan. The City of Los Angeles approved the expansion of the Sunshine Canyon Landfill and is also linked to the current expansion of Chiquita Canyon Landfill in Santa Clarita, which takes 40% of its waste from the City of Los Angeles. This is being done even though L.A. boasts a zero-waste goal because integrated waste management is a system and large-scale conversion technology is still not a reality in California, let alone the U.S. In short, existing landfills must play a role in the system today.
Glendale is committed to conversion technology. The City is moving forward with an anaerobic digestion CT project that will process organic waste (yard clippings and food) and produce high-grade methane gas at Scholl Canyon — a demonstrated and effective process that is used to power Grayson Power Plant — thus completing the cycle of renewable energy. Today, landfill gas provides 7% of Glendale’s energy needs; in the future, this figure will increase significantly, provided that the landfill remains open.5
Closing the landfill is not a cure-all. The impacts on the environment, current customers, the regional system, and even the City of Los Angeles, are all worsened if Glendale blindly closes Scholl Canyon.
If Glendale were to close the landfill, then 1) the trash would have to be trucked across the region adding to air pollution and traffic congestion, and 2) Glendale wouldn’t be able to access the site to make use of the renewable energy.