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THIS PLACE IS A DUMP! WASTE PROCESSOR INVITING PUBLIC TO LANDFILL SITE.

Byline: ERIC LEACH Staff Writer

SIMI VALLEY -- The company that operates the Simi Valley Landfill Recycling Center recently sent 1,300 e-mails to local residents inviting them to tour the facility.

They got one taker.

Richard Strayer, a retired business and economics professor, said he found it fascinating, and local elected officials who have taken the tour recommended it to residents.

``This is absolutely amazing. I didn't realize throwing away a piece of trash was so complicated,'' said Strayer as he toured the dump Thursday in an air-conditioned van. ``It's much more complicated than I anticipated.''

Waste Management Inc. is hoping more residents take Strayer's lead and check out the landfill, especially because it could double in size someday.

Moorpark City Council member Keith Millhouse has taken the tour and said it is important for more residents to know what is going on there.

``I've been up there knowing that at some point Waste Management would be coming forth with (an expansion) proposal,'' Millhouse said. ``You can't make an informed decision unless you are aware of the facts.''

Millhouse and other elected officials have expressed opposition to expanding the landfill to import more trash from Los Angeles County.

Waste Management officials purchased 2,800 acres from Unocal Corp. in 2004 and said they wanted to use part of the land to eventually expand the area where trash is dumped from 185 acres to 400 acres and the volume of trash from 3,000 to up to 6,000 tons of trash per day.

Ventura County officials say if Waste Management officials submit an expansion proposal, it is their own business decision, and they are not being pressured by the county.

The landfill is one of two such disposal sites in Ventura County and meets about 60 percent of the county's daily refuse disposal needs. For years it has been taking a portion of its trash from outside the county, with about 75 percent of the refuse originating in Ventura County, company officials said.

It's a complicated issue because a certain percentage of trash from Ventura County also winds up in other counties, including hazardous waste, sewage sludge and recyclable material.

Waste Management officials said they have not made any specific proposals for expanding the landfill yet, and the tours are part of an ongoing effort to help people understand where the landfill is and what goes on there.

The landfill sits in the hills north of Madera Road, and the land acquired from Unocal will allow it to expand farther north into the hills rather than toward the Ronald Reagan (118) Freeway as the company once planned.

The dump is about 1 1/2 miles from the nearest homes and will remain about the same distance away under the tentative expansion plans, which company officials explained on the tour.

Simi Valley City Councilman Glen Becerra, who has lived in the area his whole life, said residents should be more informed about the landfill, although many don't even know where it is.

``I'm pleased the landfill is opening its doors to the residents,'' he said. ``The residents need to know as much as they can about potential expansion.''

One prominent critic who raised landfill issues recently is Jim Dantona, a candidate for the county Board of Supervisors.

``I'm very happy to see they are opening this up to the public, because the public has a right to know. I've been very concerned about the size. I'm concerned this landfill's life span is being cut short because trash is already coming in from outside of Ventura County,'' he said.

``This should not be a landfill for the San Fernando Valley, the city of Los Angeles and other areas outside Ventura County. ... A majority of people I have spoken to since my campaign started are opposed to trash coming in from outside Ventura County.''

Peter Foy, Dantona's opponent in the race for the Fourth District seat, said waste disposal is a growing concern for many California cities and counties, but any proposed expansion regarding the Simi Valley Landfill should concern the needs of county residents, not overflow from other counties.

Eric Rose, a spokesman for Waste Management, said the tours do not focus on potential expansion but are designed to educate people about landfill operations and show how modern technology is used to operate it.

``The tour helps dispel misconceptions people have about landfills -- the design, the landfill liners, the gas monitoring system,'' he said. ``I haven't had a single person who has taken a tour who didn't say, `Wow, I didn't know that was happening.'''

``That'' includes a methane-to-gas recycling program that powers 2,500 homes every day; a falcon that keeps sea gulls away from the facility; and a fossil collection with the bones of 130 extinct animals.

Scott Tignac, district manager for Waste Management at the landfill, said the company has been offering tours for some time and has done about 50 a year.

``We've always had an open policy for tours,'' he said, ``but this is the first formal outreach for people to come in.''

He said tours have been given in the past to 5-year-old children who became fascinated with dump trucks and asked their parents to bring them.

``Those are the coolest,'' Tignac said. ``Kids like firetrucks and trash trucks.''

eric.leach@dailynews.com

(805) 583-7602

IF YOU GO

Simi Valley landfill tours are July 29 and Aug. 10. They start at 9 a.m. People can sign up by calling (805) 579-7267.

CAPTION(S):

3 photos, box

Photo:

(1 -- color) Tour participants view landfill operations near discarded appliances Thursday morning at the Simi Valley Landfill Recycling Center. The facility is offering tours to educate the public on landfill operations.

(2 -- 3) Tour participants, above, are often surprised by the center's processing methods. At left, G.I. Industries Market Area Manager Michael Smith shows tour participants a map of the landfill and surrounding areas.

Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer

Box:

IF YOU GO (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 2, 2006
Words:997
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