Supervisors vote to can 1 landfill
Tulare County is taking out the trash.
In a second overhaul of its solid waste system, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the closure of the Woodville Landfill at its Feb. 4 meeting. In the same motion, Supervisors also approved restoring operating hours at Teapot Dom Landfill and authorizing staff to negotiate alternative disposal agreements with cities and waste haulers.
Bryce Howard, director of Solid Waste for Tulare County, said the closure of the Woodville Landfill will take effect on June 30, 2014 to give the City of Tulare time to adjust its budget. Teapot Dome will go back to operating six days per week from Monday through Saturday effective on July 1, 2014.
Howard said the steps the County took in 2012 cut costs and raised revenue but did not completely solve the County’s solid waste operations problems in a sustainable way.
“If we keep this up we not have any reserves by 2015,” Howard said.
A year and a half ago, Supervisors approved the closure of four transfer stations, reducing operating days at Teapot Dome Landfill, a $3 per ton tipping fee and requiring licensed refuse haulers to deliver waste to a landfill within the County to bridge a $5.1 million budget deficit. Since then, Howard said competing landfills in other counties were able to cut costs and steal customers from Tulare County. In order to compete with Kings and Fresno Counties, which only have one large landfill, Howard said the ultimate goal is for Tulare County to operate a single landfill at Woodville.
“We are losing tonnage to other landfills but that is not necessarily due to fees,” Howard said. “Companies have to factor in the additional fuel costs that come with greater distances.”
Initially, Howard said the temporary closure of Woodville will cost the County $1.2 million. Overall, Howard said the County needs to make an additional $2.5 million per year. He said by making operations more efficient, the County has saved $500,000 per year and the closure of Woodville would save another $1 million in by reducing staff, fuel and equipment maintenance. Some of the efficiencies include using less soil to cover trash. He said 30% of the landfill’s capacity is being filled with soil. He also said more efficient equipment will reduce operating costs.
Supervisor Allen Ishida used the item to point out the increasing cost of trash service is directly correlated to the amount of trash diverted to recycling.
“California’s mandated diversion of waste has a cost,” he said. “It has impacted all of the landfills in the state. If you recycle a ton, you lose a ton of revenue. And because landfills have fixed costs, taking a ton out of the landfill is taking revenue out of the landfill.”
The last $1 million would come from renegotiating contracts with all eight cities and the Tulare County Haulers Association. Howard said he has met with the cities, Haulers Association and the Consolidated Waste Management Authority about the potential impacts of the closure and about finding rates to keep local trash haulers from hauling to landfills outside of the county.
“I will come back with items that look at our transfer system and rates in the next two months,” Howard said.
Neil Bolton, a consultant with Blue Ridge Services, said the long term plan is to operate the Teapot Dome and Visalia landfills until they reach capacity. Teapot Dome will reach capacity in eight to 12 years and cannot be expanded. Visalia will also reach capacity in the next eight to 12 years but is permitted to expand capacity for another 30 years.
“Both will close in the next three to six years and Woodville will be closed until the County moves to a regional model,” Bolton said.
Before closing the two landfills, Bolton said the County would need to expand Woodville into a much larger facility and then make it the only remaining landfill in Tulare County. The expansion of Woodville is estimated to cost about $5 million, a portion of which will be covered by the closures of the other two landfills.
Supervisor Pete Vander Poel said he was concerned about convenience for customers living in the southern edge of the County once the transition to a single landfill in Woodville.
Worthley said residents had the little known option of taking their trash to regional haulers, such as Pena’s Disposal in the northern part of the County.
Supervisor Mike Ennis agreed, “Most of the unincorporated areas have private service and have good coverage by private haulers.”