A quickly disappearing supply of landfill space throughout the metropolitan Los Angeles area has prompted the City of Pasadena to explore building its own waste-to-energy plant and a 100-acre landfill in Glendale.
City officials concede that the two proposals recommended to the Board of Directors in a study presented in March could provoke a furious response from San Gabriel Valley residents, who have opposed similar proposals.
But Deputy City Manager Edward Aghjayan said the city's waste disposal problems have reached the point where it must begin considering radical steps to solve them.
The importance of the study, done by the environmental engineering firm of Hekimian & Associates, has been underscored by two recent developments that threaten to further reduce the city's options.
Glendale, which receives all of Pasadena's garbage at its Scholl Canyon landfill, is considering barring other cities from its landfill as early as next year to ensure that it will have enough space for its own trash.
And, to make matters worse, the proposed 3,000-ton-a-day, waste-to-energy plant in Irwindale, which city officials say would be a cheap and easy solution, appears to be in trouble. A state Energy Commission committee recommended recently that the full commission terminate the developer's application to build the plant.
There are now 11 landfills within 40 miles of Pasadena. But at the current rate of dumping, the only ones that will be open in 10 years are Scholl Canyon, and the Bradley West and Calabasas landfills in the San Fernando Valley, according to the study.
The study rejected the three landfills as long-term solutions by themselves because of their limited life expectancy.
At the current rate of dumping, Bradley West is expected to close in 2001, followed by Scholl Canyon in 2004 and Calabasas in 2014, according to the study.
But Aghjayan said those landfills might have to close sooner as more cities compete for their use, which would probably drive up dumping fees. He added that the city is also uncertain whether a long-term contract can be negotiated with any of landfills.
It now costs the city $13 a ton in transportation costs and dumping fees to use Scholl Canyon, according to the study. Bradley West would cost $19.60 a ton and Calabasas $17.06 a ton.
"We can't afford to wait anymore for some grand regional solution," Aghjayan said. "It's our problem, and we have to solve it."
The $45,000 study offered five major recommendations:
Negotiate a long-term dumping agreement with Glendale for the use of the Scholl Canyon landfill.
Conduct a feasibility study on building a waste-to-energy plant in Pasadena if the city is barred from the Scholl Canyon landfill.
Maintain the option of using the Irwindale plant if it is built.
Begin a "detailed and serious" study of a city-owned landfill in a neighboring city.
Begin a program of waste recycling.
Aghjayan said none of the alternatives provides an easy solution, and all of the most effective options have problems.
Homes and businesses in Pasadena now produce an estimated 118,000 tons of garbage a year. By 2010 that figure is expected to top 165,000 tons because of the city's increasing population and commercial development.
Like most cities in the Los Angeles area, Pasadena buries the bulk of its garbage in sanitary landfills.
But, because of increasing environmental regulations and the public outcry against opening new landfills, there is a shortage of places to put the garbage, according to the study.
'No One Wants It'
Even those cities that have their own landfills, like Glendale, are facing the same problem of where to dispose of their garbage because eventually all their space will be filled.
"Who's going to take the stuff?" asked Glendale Mayor Larry Zarian. "No one wants it in their backyard."
"Everyone else is scrambling to find a solution to their own problems," Aghjayan said. "It's not like there is a landfill out there waiting for Pasadena's garbage."
Aghjayan said the city must take a "holistic" approach to its waste disposal problem by combining several of the study's recommendations.
The best alternative, on which the city could base other solutions, would be to negotiate a long-term contract with Glendale for the continued use of the Scholl Canyon landfill.
Because the landfill is now operated by the county Sanitation Districts, the county can determine who is allowed to dump garbage at the Scholl Canyon landfill. But, when that agreement ends, probably late next year, Glendale will determine who gets to use the dump.
Glendale is also aware of how precious its landfill space is and is seriously considering barring other cities from using Scholl Canyon when the Sanitation Districts' contract runs out.
Zarian said that, if only Glendale dumped in Scholl Canyon, its useful life could be extended by as much as 80 years.
$7 Million in Income