Sustainability has become a hot-button issue in Eagle Rock in light of recent protests to shut down Glendale’s Scholl Canyon landfill. Located less than three miles from Occidental’s campus, the landfill initially sparked debate about the garbage trucks that use Eagle Rock roads to truck in the waste. Increasingly, though, the debate has moved from one of back-and-forth local politics to a conversation about the area’s environmental future.
The 53-year-old landfill, which serves 13 communities in Los Angeles County, is a historical sore spot between Eagle Rock and Glendale. While Glendale allows neighboring counties like Pasadena to ship their waste to the facility, Los Angeles has prohibited dumping since the late ’80s. The Scholl-bound garbage trucks that drive along Eagle Rock’s Colorado Boulevard exacerbate matters. Some Eagle Rock residents are upset with the noise pollution caused by the trucks, as well as the toll the vehicles take on their streets.
Officials, however, are thinking bigger than just the landfill—the issue at large is the future of waste disposal around Southern California, according to Urban and Environmental Policy (UEP) Professor Mark Vallianatos.
“I think it’s a problem to extend the life of the landfill,” Vallianatos said. “This idea is based on an old model.”
While Vallianatos sympathizes with those troubled by the trucks on the Colorado Boulevard arterial, he is more concerned with the waste itself. He sent a letter to the council in July on behalf of the UEP department criticizing the proposed expansion of the landfill for both the health risks to local residents as well as the potential environmental concerns.
Vallianatos’ letter in particular points to an increase in air particulate pollutants as well as a chemical called mono-nitrogen oxide associated with the landfill. Not only are both bad for the ozone layer, but they can also damage lung tissue. Vallianatos also noted that simply shutting down the landfill will only move the problems away without solving the issue of pollution.
Vallianatos is in favor of communities adopting Zero Waste Policies, wherein cities attempt to lower trash output over a period of time. Such measures typically encourage more recycling, composting and reusing construction waste. He cited San Francisco, which reduced their waste by 80 percent over eight years, as a notable example.
Los Angeles City Council member Jose Huizar, who has joined with anti-expansion protest groups such as The Eagle Rock Association, voiced similar concerns.
“The lack of a recycling strategy is a central flaw of the proposal,” he said in a press release. “The project fails to meet purported objectives of recycling and waste reduction.”
Glendale’s Director of Communications and Community Relations Tom Lorenz argued that expanding the landfill would actually benefit conservation efforts. He said in an email that Los Angeles has a history of shipping waste into their city. Any truck traffic in Eagle Rock currently comes from waste companies that service both Eagle Rock and Glendale mutually. Glendale could make an exclusive franchise system, he explained, but it would force those companies to ship to Chiquita or Sunshine Canyon landfills, putting extra financial strain on Eagle Rock customers.
The prospect of diverting to farther landfills casts expansion as a potentially more sustainable option, Lorenz said. He also pointed to the current environmental benefits of keeping Scholl open. For example, Glendale uses the methane gas it produces to power its Grayson Power Plant. And Lorenz thinks the landfill’s benefits will continue to grow.
“The city envisions that the landfill will be [an energy] conversion facility with a landfill component, versus the other way around,” Lorenz said.
Currently, Glendale has no immediate plans to expand the landfill, but the city council also has not tabled the measure. Los Angeles County Sanitation District Senior Engineer Debra Bogdanoff confirmed that she and her team will address any complaints about the expansion and determine a final recommendation. From there, Glendale officials will formally decide whether to expand, stay put or close, but the timeline for this decision is still uncertain.
For now, Lorenz maintains that the reality of waste disposal includes landfills.
“Realistically, at least for the foreseeable future, landfills will play a role in that system, albeit a diminishing role as Glendale progresses toward the goal of zero waste,” he said.