County authorizes grant submissions for landfill and burn site remediation

The county’s Department of Public Works, whose activities include maintenance of closed landfills and burn sites once operated by the county of San Diego, was given a blanket authorization to apply for and accept state grants to mitigate potential pollution or other health and safety hazards at the former landfills and burn sites.

A 5-0 San Diego County board of supervisors vote, June 21, authorized the director of the Department of Public Works or his designee to submit, negotiate and execute all documents necessary to secure state grant funding for the closed landfills and burn sites. The blanket authorization covers application and acceptance through June 30, 2022.

The department maintains 22 closed landfills and burn sites and also monitors 10 additional sites which were privately owned but leased for use by the county. The California Department of Resources, Recycling, and Recovery has a grant program offering matching awards of up to $750,000 per site to remediate former landfills or burn sites.

The maintenance and monitoring responsibilities of the Department of Public Works include studies to determine whether the presence of lead, other metals or chemical compounds pose a risk to public health and safety or to the environment, developing and implementing remediation actions to minimize impacts and working with the Regional Water Quality Control Board and the state Department of Toxic Substances Control to characterize waste at former landfills and burn sites and to identify appropriate remediation efforts where needed. The remediation may include improvements to existing landfill gas and groundwater systems, import and placement of additional cover material, fencing to secure sites or removal or consolidation of wastes.

The Department of Public Works is conducting waste characterization studies on its closed landfills and burn sites to determine the cost and feasibility of removing burn ash or buried trash and clean closing some of the sites. When the studies are completed the individual sites will be prioritized for grant funding. Clean closing the sites will allow them to be removed from ongoing maintenance and regulatory requirements, which would also eliminate the maintenance and regulatory compliance costs. The remediation grants are available once a year, so the advance authorization allows the department to apply for grants once they are made available. The advance authorization also allows the department to apply for grants to offset costs related to any improvement projects on individual sites requested by regulatory agencies.

The five-year authorization approved by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in 2007 allowed the county to provide slope stabilization and drainage improvements for the former Bonsall landfill on Twin Oaks Valley Road and also to mitigate the former Alpine II, Jacumba I and Jacumba II burn sites. The 2012 authorization which provided grant application and acceptance authority through June 30 allowed for clean closure of the Fallbrook 1C burn site on Stone Post Way.

The county divested its solid waste activity, other than monitoring and maintenance of closed sites, in 1997 and established an environmental trust fund with the proceeds from the solid waste facility sales. The environmental trust fund will be used for the county match requirements of the state grant.

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