A plan to turn the former Eagle Mountain iron mine into a giant desert landfill has run into trouble with the state Integrated Waste Management Board. And in the process, the board has sent a message to developers that the California Environmental Protection Agency intends to streamline and put new teeth into its permit process.
This week, the waste management board, a division of Cal/EPA, rejected an environmental impact statement prepared by Mine Reclamation Corp., developer of the site 200 miles east of Los Angeles in Riverside County.
The Eagle Mountain project is one of six proposals to solve Southern California's increasing shortage of landfill space, beginning in 1995. Mine Reclamation Corp. has teamed with Browning-Ferris Industries of California Inc., a subsidiary of the second-largest U.S. garbage hauler, and Kaiser Steel Resources Inc. to develop the site.
The Eagle Mountain landfill would be the world's largest, able to bury 20,000 tons a day of the region's household garbage over the next 115 years.
In a letter to Mine Reclamation President Richard A. Daniels, Ralph E. Chandler, executive director of the board, called for a new environmental report providing more information about ground water and air quality effectiveness, earthquake dangers, and the design of the liner to be used to protect the surrounding land and underground water. Also, it asks how the project would meet state requirements to divert recyclable and compostable materials from garbage going in the dump.
Chandler said the board will hold public hearings on the next environmental report that the company provides.
Even more than the rejection of one environmental report, the move was a signal to regional regulatory agencies and other developers proposing landfills and similar projects in the state.
"We are seeking to overhaul the permit process," Chandler said.
All too often, Chandler said, an environmental impact statement that may satisfy the requirements of agencies at the beginning of the permit process--in this case, Riverside County--may not satisfy agencies at the end of the line. The waste management board issues the final permit for new landfills to begin operation.
Developers should be able to submit a single, comprehensive, environmental report designed from the beginning to meet all regulators' requirements, Chandler said. But, he added, these reports should also better address environmental concerns.
"Other projects in the works . . . waiting in line to go before our board need to recognize that this board takes very vigorously the need for an adequate environmental document," Chandler said.