Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Solano County Supervisors OK landfill expansion

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Supervisors OK landfill expansion

By Barry Eberling

- County supervisors on Tuesday agreed that Potrero Hills Landfill can expand within a valley of grazing land near Suisun Marsh.

Supervisors took a vote to signal their intent, with an official vote to come at a future meeting after the various conditions they imposed are written down. Supervisors John Silva, John Vasquez and Mike Reagan favored the expansion. Supervisors Duane Kromm and Barbara Kondylis opposed it.

'We all create the garbage,' Silva said.

But the board's decision doesn't necessarily end the battle over the dump expansion. Among the approvals the board intends to grant is a Suisun Marsh permit. Opponents can appeal this marsh permit to the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

The paperwork for the appeal is already prepared, dump expansion opponent Dwight Acey said after the meeting.

'This is a sad day for Solano County,' Acey said, but added that opponents are prepared for a protracted fight.
Protections for Suisun Marsh proved a key sticking point. A majority of supervisors decided a bigger dump won't harm the marsh.

Silva proposed that a 15-cent fee be charged for every ton of garbage brought to Potrero Hills Landfill. This money will be used for a Suisun Marsh education program. Silva estimated the fee will raise $120,000 annually.
Kromm didn't see that as a solution.

'So we are going to do an education program fund,' Kromm said. 'So (the marsh) will be kind of a museum; this is what it looked like before we destroyed it.'

Potrero Hills Landfill is in hills near Suisun Marsh, about two miles southeast of Suisun City. The owners, Florida-based Republic Services, said the dump will fill up in eight to 10 years unless it expands.

Republic Services asked county permission to expand the dump from 320 acres to 580 acres. It also asked the county to approve such things as a power plant that runs on dump gasses.

The dump property is subject to state and local laws from the late 1970s and early 1980s protecting Suisun Marsh. It is in the Suisun Marsh buffer zone.

A Potrero Hills dump should be allowed "if it can be shown that the construction and operation of such facilities will not have significant adverse ecological or aesthetic impacts on the marsh," the law says.

An environmental report says the proposed expansion would have significant effects on the marsh. But mitigation steps can be taken to make these effects "less than significant," it says. For example, the dump owners would improve nearby tiger salamander habitat.

Kondylis interpreted marsh protection laws as not allowing for mitigation attempts.

"The law says we cannot do it if it has impacts," she said.

About 80 percent of the trash coming to Potrero Hills Landfill comes from other counties. Supervisor Mike Reagan wants space to be available for Solano County communities as they continue to grow. But the county cannot force Potrero Hills to take local garbage over imported garbage.

Potrero Hills officials are willing to sit down with local leaders and reserve space at the dump for local communities, said Larry Burch of the landfill.

The expanded dump annually will create about 69 tons of air pollution. It will have to buy air credits from other regional businesses that pollute less than their permitted amount. Bay Area air pollution control laws require this step, which results in no net increase in pollution.

Kromm expressed concern that the credits could come from such distant places as Fremont, leaving Solano County with dirtier air. The board agreed to work with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to try to get air credits for the dump from Solano County businesses.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

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