Waste Management Landfill Tour

This morning, I had the pleasure of touring the Simi Valley Landfill. Yep, I said “pleasure.” It was truly a fascinating experience. About three years ago, I brought several loads to the landfill to dump on a Saturday afternoon and was amazed by all the things to see. The brief experience prompted me to do a little casual research on the workings of landfills. I haven’t really been opposed to the expansion, unlike my favorite Simi Valley City Councilwoman, Barbra Williamson, so I was really hoping this tour would answer some questions about not only what goes on now, but what would be going on at the site should the proposed expansion be approved.

Before I get into my reaction, which admittedly is less than controversial or even interesting, for that matter, I do have to encourage you to take the Simi Valley Landfill tour soon. I didn’t know this, but they’ll take groups through the landfill, sharing and showing the operational aspects of the landfill, from the dumping of solid waste and the sorting and collecting of recyclable material, to the grooming of closed “cells” and collection of natural gas produced by buried waste. The operation as a whole is as impressive as I thought it would be and I highly recommend everyone take the tour BEFORE deciding your position on the expansion project.

The trip started with immediate disappointment when my tour guide, Scott Tignac, District Manager of the Simi Valley Landfill, told me that my video camera wouldn’t be able to join us on the tour since I hadn’t received prior approval. Scott was kind enough to provide me with contact details for the Community Relations Manager so that I can return in the future to take some shots of the operation. Clearly, however, questions about some of the more compelling political issues behind the expansion would go unanswered. The purpose of the tour was to better understand the operation aspects of the landfill and to get an idea of the geographical footprint of the proposed expansion.

The landfill is a heavily scrutinized and regulated operation, but they manage to run it very well. One of the most fascinating aspects of the operation involves bird’s-eye-view photos of the entire property allowing WMI to closely match the landscaping elements of covered portions of the landfill with surrounding, untouched land. The covered cells are groomed and seeded, maintained with reclaimed water for as long as needed until plant life is normally sustained. I was also fascinated by the gas wells throughout the property collecting the natural gas produced by the buried waste. The gas powers the on site offices, but is also funneled to “the grid” generating enough electricity to power several thousand homes.

One point of criticism I’ve heard in the past is that Waste Management uses green waste to spread over the trash that is buried. This turns out to be correct. The practice is completely legitimate, in fact. Solid waste traditionally is covered by dirt. However, 10,000 cubic feet of dirt will always be 10,000 cubic feet of dirt, where as 10,000 cubic feet of green waste can decompose. Not all green waste can be used to spread over solid waste and is recycled and used for various functions, such as compost for example. See correction notes below. *

The daily management of the waste that is processed in the landfill is very laborious. The people working the solid waste burial work 12 hour days sometimes because all waste must be 100% covered/buried by the end of the working day. They don’t go home until that goal is accomplished on a daily basis. Further, it was very surprising to see the the sorting of recyclable materials was a manual process involving quite a few hands.

We did stop to look at the land that Waste Management now owns and intends to use for the proposed expansion. It’s a significant piece of land, very large. If the expansion is approved, the GI Rubbish offices and trucks would be moved up the hill to the landfill, effectively limiting at least some of the existing Madera Road traffic. Plus, the landfill would continue to expand north of the city, rather than moving south towards the city to reach currently planned capacity. And considering the way the landfill is operated currently, I can’t imagine there being a negative impact on residents regarding sights and smells.

From what I was able to see on my tour, I cannot see there being a significantly negative impact on the city of Simi Valley by approving the landfill expansion. The landfill as it is currently has been in place and out of most peoples’ minds fr 35 years. My suspicion is that most people who are opposed to the landfill are opposed because (1) the natural emotional response to a project of this type is to consider our city as “the trash can for neighboring cities near and far” and because (2) it is unclear if or how the City of Simi Valley will benefit by the expansion.

I suspect I’ll be able to form a more solid opinion on the expansion once the complete Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is complete. Until then, I’m just not sold on the idea that it’s harmful to the city. I am sincerely hoping that someone will comment on this post with some reasons for me to see it the way Barbra Williamson sees it. Her mailer is below…

Williamson Anti Expansion Brochure

Williamson Anti Expansion Brochure

* CORRECTION: The State of California allows green waste to be used as an Alternate Daily Cover. In the past, approximately 10% was used in that manner. Currently none of it (0%) is used for daily cover. 99% of the green waste is recycled. The other 1% represents trash that sometimes gets put in the green container that is removed. The green waste is shipped throughout Southern and Central California as a soil amendment. Some of the material is sent to a composting facility where it is refined into products that you would find at a nursery (as I referenced in the text above). Some of the material is sent to the central valley as a fuel and some is used onsite at the Simi Landfill to “re-landscape” after soil cover has been placed.

Also, the company that manages Waste Management’s green waste is called Agromin and can be found at www.agromin.com.

Runkle Canyon is NOT Toxic! Let’s Move On!

We need to rely on good, sound science
– Steve Sojka

This past Monday, I missed the City Council meeting where the status of Runkle Canyon was discussed. I caught the playback and was fascinated by what I saw!

I can’t help but wonder if the Radiation Rangers are hysterical, or if they’re just trying to be overly sensational to prevent a developer from building homes in their backyards. The presentation started with Radiation Ranger Patty Coryell, considered the founder of the Radiation Rangers. She introduced Michael Collins, a reporter who hardly comes off as objective. He spoke of mysterious white substances, unknown tar like substances, and “suspicious looking water.” Interesting stuff. But none of it proves contamination. He voiced concerns about possible contamination of drinking water. He had slides with pretty maps. It was compelling. Also, he makes a living writing about evil developers who build on tainted land. The presentation concluded with a resident who’s face I couldn’t see. His job was apparently to add no value to the presentation aside from saying “let this soak into your brains” which Glen Becerra had the opportunity to say back later in the meeting. Like I said… compelling.

Mr Riley, on the other hand, joined the council meeting directly after with a presentation from the Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC). He discussed openly that he and his department had been in contact with KB Homes and that KB Homes had responded favorably and with cooperation as did Runkle Canyon, LLC. He indicated that they opened their test results to scrutiny. He also discovered that the mysterious white substance was located not only on the property in question, but that it was also located in other areas throughout Simi. Analysis concluded that it was a naturally occurring mineral salt, completely unrelated to the Santa Susana Field Lab. The black tar substance is apparently a result of a gravel mining effort and, while ugly, is not contamination. After several questions from the council, Mr. Riley finally answered the one that I was waiting for all night which was that he had no plans at this point to indicate that the land was unsafe on which to build.

And yet, if you check the hysterical website of the Radiation Rangers, they have a big red banner above a photo of harmless white mineral salt that reads…

What’s wrong with this picture?

Well, it turns out nothing is wrong. And regarding any ideas of a supplemental EIR (Environmental Impact Report) the city manager concludes that there is no purpose to do a supplemental EIR just for the sake of doing an EIR. It’ll happen when the time is right.

I’m annoyed by the hysteria the Radiation Rangers have spun. People eat that stuff up.  Some poor bastard embarrassingly approached the podium at the council meeting to sternly lecture the council and inform them that if he “finds out that he’s drinking contaminated water and the council did nothing about it, he’s going to hold them all personally responsible.”  How obnoxious and uninformed.  I blame that individual for being uninformed, but I point the blame at the Radiation Rangers as well.

As far as what I learned from Monday night’s council meeting, I feel pleased and informed. Easily one of the best council meetings ever. Plus, it’s good to see science and facts beat out hysteria and sensationalism.

On a much sadder note, the content of salt on the property is such that snails and slugs are required to relocate. Rumor has it, a new group called the Snail Rangers has formed to investigate the mysterious bubbling effect that takes place on snails and slugs when they come into contact with the mysterious white substance. More on this soon…

Simi Valley Headlines and Issues

In the Simi Valley Acorn this morning:

In response to the idea of a $100 donation from every household for the schools, I think it is a start, but not enough.

Meanwhile, we all wonder how the C4 Bond Funds are being spent and people like me wonder if they’ll have the chance to sit on the oversight committee.  Learn more about that by clicking here.

Also in the Acorn: City will hear latest findings on Runkle Canyon

According to a letter sent to the city in October, the agency has concluded that “additional work is necessary to better define environmental conditions at the site and to address one or more potential threats to public health and the environment.”

From what I’ve read so far, the so-called Radiation Rangers that are protesting the development of Runkle Canyon strike me as hysterical people attempting to sell fear.  I’ve seen no solid evidence to support either claim of clean or contaminated.

I had originally planned to be there with my camera on documenting the happenings on Monday night.  Unfortunately, I’ll be flying out to Cincinnati on business that day.  I’ll have to catch the “re-run” on the city’s website.

Oaks Mall Expansion Opens Tomorrow

Holiday shoppers will want to load up their wallets and put on their comfortable walking shoes because the two-level, open-air expansion at The Oaks mall will be awaiting them tomorrow, Nov. 15

This is bad news for those who are heavily invested in the Shop Simi Valley First campaign.  I’ve heard the new mall is gorgeous.  I’m curious to know how the city’s $100,000 Shop Simi budget is going to keep holiday shoppers in Simi Valley Town Center this holiday season.

Landfill Expansion Tour

I’ve been in contact with the Simi Valley Landfill and I’m pleased to say that I have a tour scheduled for November 24th.  I’m excited and that’s no joke.  Unlike most people, I like landfills.  The reason is because I produce trash and I’m pleased that as a producer of trash there’s a place for me to put it when my trash cans are full.  Plus, I’m well aware of the benefits of a landfill.  There are some… I swear.

However, quite a few around town are pretty discouraged by the idea of a landfill expansion which has been proposed by Waste Management.  I’m hoping this tour gives me a clear sense of what it’s all about, what the environmental impact might be, and how it will benefit our city and surrounding neighbors.

Again, if you have any thoughts or comments about the landfill expansion project, I’d be delighted to hear about them before my tour on the 24th.  Feel free to email me or leave me a comment here.

C4 Bond Oversight Committee

Big thanks to Brian Dennert for posting an article about the call for committee members for the C4 Bond Oversight Committee.  I applied.

I found that one of the compelling statements made in the forum for school board candidates this election was in reference to C4 Bond spending.  Challengers said, “bad job” while incumbents said “not really.”  And while the debate is certainly much more intense than that, either time contraints or a pre-conceived questions ultimately left any details on either side up to the imagination.

I have school age children and this really means something to me.  I recently read a public posting from an unnamed School District employee urging parents to donate $100 per family for much needed funding — and this was recently.  It made me think of the C4 Bond issue.  Where is that money going?

So… I applied as a member of the committee.  We’ll see how that goes.

Simi Landfill – Should they Expand?

A couple months ago, I published a video indicating that I was not necessarily against any efforts to expand the landfill. If Waste Management owns the land, and the EPA regulates how waste is processed and stored, ensuring public safety, then why can’t they do what they want to do?

Of course, several individuals, including members of City Council, saw the video and commented that I was uninformed. To clarify, here was my position:

  1. It’s safe – though decomposing trash does produce methane which is considered a greenhouse gas, it’s an energy gas and the EPA requires that it be captured and used to produce electrical energy.
  2. WM owns the land, so who are we to tell them what they can and cannot do?
  3. WM operates the landfill in Simi Valley, so any increase in revenue must benefit the city in some way.

To my surprise, Barbra Williamson put out a mailer shortly before the election stating her strong position AGAINST the expansion of the Simi Valley landfill (a screen capture of the mailer is below). My initial thoughts: “Really? What am I missing?”

Lately, I’ve been wondering if I’m over-simplifying the whole thing. To my delight, however, I received a voice mail from Waste Management this morning offering to talk to me about the expansion program and allow me to tour the facility. I haven’t returned the call yet, but I intend to take them up on the offer. I can’t imagine they have much to hide if they’re calling me directly to check it out for myself. Plus, I find the whole industry fascinating, so I’m very eager to check it out.

I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, I hope you’ll share your thoughts on the matter.

UPDATE: I have a landfill tour scheduled this month.

Williamson Anti Expansion Brochure

Williamson Anti Expansion Brochure

Can They Get Their Name Out?

Now that the incumbents have secured their positions on the Simi Valley City Council, how will the challengers strengthen their positions the next time they run?  Bruce Witkin, challenger for Mayor (who received my support and my vote this election) took on the challenging and seemingly impossible task of taking on the super popular and heavily supported Paul Miller.  Mike Judge took on Barbra Williamson and Steve Sojka, long time council members with lots of support and lots of campaign dollars.  So how does a challenger build up their reputation in the community to earn that same level of support?

Richard Paul Carter opted NOT to print and post campaign signs citing his desire to prevent cluttering the Simi Valley landscape.  Gerald Smith (challenger for council) and Ed Lang (challenger for Mayor) didn’t have signs, no reason stated that I could find.  Mike Judge and Bruce Witkin, on the other hand, did have signs printed, and they were also nearer to victory than their other challengers.  Signs and ads help, but clearly it’s not enough to oust popular incumbents.

Business owners who are running for office should join the Chamber of Commerce.  It may seem like a conforming move, but it’s a move that is effective.  Before I joined the Chamber (and after, for that matter) it was described to me as a good ol’ boys club, where the elite members enjoy attention, rewards and honors, and lots of referrals from influential figures, while the new members have to claw their way to the top, proving themselves as worthy.  My advice would be to disregard those warnings and join.  The Chamber consists of your peers in business.  The same things that concern you concern them as well.  There are hundreds of newer or non-elite members, more so than the elite top-dogs, and they are registered voters.  And don’t join when your campaign starts.  Join now!

As a candidate, you obviously have a passion for your community.  Prove it now, to yourself and to voters, and join the Rotary Club.  The Rotary Clubs in Simi Valley are responsible for many high profile annual events that raise a significant amount of money for charitable organizations.  Be ready, because joining the Rotary Club requires true dedication.  I was a member of a Simi Valley Rotary Club for nearly a year, but dropped out of the club when my divorce kicked into high gear.  If you have a high demand career or personal issues that will prevent you from participating right away, then take it slowly and strategize before you join.  But without a doubt, Rotary is a rewarding organization in which to participate… you’ll feel good about your efforts, and so will those who support you and vote for you.

I’m curious to know how folks like Mike Judge and Bruce Witkin plan to spend the next few years before they run again.  I’m hoping to catch up to both of them soon to find out.  When I do, I’ll post that info here.