Need to Know

Milpitas, Calif., Opts to Continue Litigation Over Landfill Expansion Decision

The Milpitas City Council voted to continue litigation against the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery for not considering odor complaints in approving a landfill expansion.

Milpitas, Calif., is back in the news. The town, which has been at the center of a host of municipal solid waste issues in recent years, has decided to move forward with litigation stemming from the expansion of the Newby Island Resource Recovery Park landfill.

Last week, the Milpitas City Council voted 4-1 in a closed session to continue litigation against the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery for not considering odor complaints from the facility in deciding to grant the landfill expansion permit.

That’s despite the town seeing a drop in odor complaints. After spiking in early 2016, odor complaints dropped to 93 in November. Only about one-third of those were directly attributed to garbage. Earlier in 2016, the city had received 500 complaints in a single month.

In addition, due to odor issues at the Newby Island Landfill, the city is contemplating where it should send its waste.

The town voted to dispose of the city's trash at Waste Management's Guadalupe Recycling and Disposal Facility in San Jose. But Republic Services of Santa Clara County gathered enough valid petition signatures to qualify a ballot measure asking Milpitas residents to rescind the city council's decision.

Milpitas hired a law firm back in February 2015 to potentially sue the operator of the Newby Island Landfill.  A few days later, Republic Services of Santa Clara County formed the South Bay Odor Coalition to diminish the impacts to surrounding cities.

At the same time, the San Jose Planning Commission continued to delay its decision regarding the proposed expansion. Milpitas, in March of last year, filed an appeal over the expansion plans and in April declared the landfill a public nuisance. (It was later denied.)

In May 2015, another delay came until a study of the landfills odors could be completed.

Lastly, in December 2015, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Peter Kirwan on Dec. 11 tentatively approved a settlement in a class action suit involving the landfill. The settlement was finalized in June.

Also, in November 2016, after putting off its decision for several months, Milpitas selected Garden City Sanitation Inc. as its new hauler, replacing longtime collector Republic Services.

The San Jose Mercury News has more on the latest development:

“Well, if CalRecycle is permitting, are they also addressing odor? And the city’s position is they are not and they should be. That is the heart of the lawsuit,” Diaz said.

During an April 12 hearing on the suit filed in San Francisco County Superior Court, where actions against the state are typically filed in the Bay Area, Smith said the judge clearly understood Milpitas’ arguments and “seemed to respond favorably to them.”

Smith said CalRecycle granted the expansion permit despite there being 2,400 odor complaints in a three-month period during which time the permit was being considered. CalRecycle, he added, abdicated authority over odors from landfills and recycleries to the state Air Resources Board and said it can only address odor at composting facilities.

“It would be our argument that they should require another permit application that addresses odor,” Smith said. “We should be able to at least get CalRecycle to look at this permit and see if there is something we can do to fix the threat of odors at this landfill, we should at least get the chance to get that consideration by them.”

Read the full story here.

TAGS: Legal
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