Our Landfill – More than Just Trash

It’s tough to write about something you’ve never seen. When I decided to write about landfills, I realized I’d never been to one. So I arranged to visit Shasta County’s West Central Landfill, which lies about 9 miles west on Clear Creek Road off Highway 273 in Redding.

The drive there took me through scorched land – the scene of the September 2013 Clover Fire that burned more than 8,000 acres near Igo. As devastated as the hills and forests had been, there were encouraging signs of a slow recovery.

When I arrived, my imagination smashed into reality. I had pictured trash everywhere, blowing loose. Clearly the wrong picture.

What I discovered was open land. The landfill encompasses approximately 1,000 acres, including storm-water retention areas throughout the property. These help reduce the amount of water that can directly access the active parts of the landfill and, in turn, minimizes the amount of wastewater it generates.

The landfill even has a view of the Veterans Cemetery in Igo. Staff area always mindful when funerals are going on there.

The first area you see at the landfill has large recycling dumpsters with pneumatic lids that keep the rain off and bears and people out. The county provides recycling and offers dumping, especially for people in the surrounding rural area who don’t want to trek to the Transfer Station on Abernathy Way.

The county accepts the usual types of recycling and more. This includes:

  • refrigerators
  • air conditioners
  • hot water heaters
  • microwaves

They also accept tires, but no more than nine at a time. They offer recycling as a convenience, but on a small scale only. For larger hauls, they send people to North State Recycling or Bulldog Scrap Metal Recycling.

I learned that Shasta County is providing an environmental service via this landfill, not a large-scale recycling facility.

Driving through the property with a staff person, I saw an enormous hillside. This was the landfill’s Phase 1, which had been buttoned up since the early 1990s. They’re currently in the midst of Phase 2.

Regarding Phase 1’s land use, I learned that it’s a big producer of methane. Landfills produce gas for years after they’re closed. At present, the methane is extracted and burned. I was surprised to learn that the air disbursed from methane gas at the landfill is cleaner than what we breathe.

A number of landfills around the country utilize their methane to produce electricity through waste- to-energy sites. I discovered that the City has a partner company lined up to do a small waste-to-energy operation to turn their methane into electricity.

The economy stimulates how much waste there is. Currently the landfill takes in around 400 tons of trash daily. During peak construction periods, it averages 700 tons daily.

The landfill operates as a partnership between the City and County. The city brings in and dumps the trash and the County compactors compact it. At the end of the day, it’s covered with tarps.

Regulations say you need to cover trash with 6 inches of dirt daily. The landfill uses tarps to save air space. This is very important as air space is worth millions of dollars to create.

California regulators, including CalRecycle and the Water Quality Board, come in at least every 18 months to inspect everything, sometimes more often.

Ours is a Class 3 landfill. The municipal waste brought in includes: plastic, paper, food, consumer goods, household items and cardboard such as food containers, boxes. They don’t accept any fluids or hazardous waste.

The spokesperson I met with said he’d like to see more information provided to the public, especially as to options for recycling hazardous waste. That means no batteries,fluorescent tubes or electronic waste.

“There needs to be more on-going information to the public as to resources, what’s recyclable and how,” he said.

They practice recycling at the landfill too. This year the landfill will use recycled concrete for roads.

The projected capacity of Phase 2 takes it up to the year 2032. But, recycling could take it past that.

Recycling is good for the environment and it protects our natural resources. As the list of what’s recyclable keeps increasing, doing our part makes more of a difference. The lesson I learned from my visit to our landfill is this: the more we recycle, we extend the life of our landfills. It’s as simple as that.

To reach Debra Atlas, contact her at debraatlas@gmail.com or via her blog at www.Envirothink.wordpress.com.

Debra Atlas

A former long-term resident of Redding who loves its natural wonders, journalist and blogger Debra Atlas is reachable www.Eco-hub.com or debraatlas@gmail.com

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