Op-Ed: More information on the Scholl Canyon Landfill

Last week, I provided a brief overview of the complex realities faced by the Glendale City Council as they prepare to consider the future of the Scholl Canyon Landfill. As noted previously, the potential extension/expansion of the landfill’s operation permit, which will be considered next summer, invites a significant community dialogue. Unfortunately, some of the information being circulated is incorrect and must be addressed clearly and concisely.


To this end:

  1. The proposed expansion of the landfill is not about maximizing revenue. Although the maximum daily tonnage allowable under the current permit is 3,400 tons per day (TPD), it has been many years since we have been anywhere near that figure. Even prior to the Great Recession, the average TPD hovered around 1,400. Since the recession, Scholl has been processing less than 1,000 TPD. The city’s good faith is demonstrated on this front in two ways: 1) the EIR uses the 1,400 TPD as its baseline, not the permitted 3,400 tons; and 2) even during the darkest days of the recession, the Glendale City Council refused to open the wasteshed for more trash as thus increase revenue from the landfill.

  2. Some environmental concerns have been raised that have been taken out of context or are just wrong. For example, concerns about vinyl chloride levels at the landfill during the 1980s are being used today to scare folks into opposing the landfill. In reality, Sanitation District researchers noted the elevated levels on their own and determined that detected levels were well below regulatory limits. Any insinuation linking residents contracting cancer as a result of the tiny amounts of vinyl chloride detected is downright dishonest and extremely misleading. By comparison, it would be equally misleading to tell folks that they will get cancer from driving a new car, because elevated levels of vinyl chloride are common inside of new cars.

    Similarly, the “unavoidable” air impacts cited in the EIR are based on the originally permitted 3,400 TPD level. In fact, the average daily tonnage even before the recession — as well as the EIR baseline — was only 1,400 TPD. At this reduced level, the atmospheric impacts are not alarming or particularly distressing.

  3. There are no immediate plans to expand the landfill. The consistent message from the city has been that the landfill operation is but one element of the integrated waste management system. In the future, conversion technologies (CTs) will play a significantly greater role as they are perfected and permitted. The vision is for Scholl Canyon to become a conversion facility with a landfill component, and not the other way around.

  4. Glendale is a progressive leader in the arena of waste management. Many cities, including the city of Los Angeles, have enacted a zero-waste goal similar to our plan. However, the city of Los Angeles approved the expansion of the Sunshine Canyon Landfill and also linked to the current expansion of Chiquita Canyon Landfill in Santa Clarita, which takes 40% of its waste from the city of Los Angeles. This is being done even though L.A. boasts a zero-waste goal. Why? Because integrated waste management is a system and large-scale conversion technology is still not a reality in California, let alone the U.S. In short, existing landfills must play a role in the system today.

  5. Glendale is committed to conversion technology. We are today moving forward with an anaerobic digestion CT project that will process organic waste (yard clippings and food) and produce high-grade methane gas at Scholl Canyon — a demonstrated and effective process that is used to power Grayson Power Plant — thus completing the cycle of renewable energy. Today, landfill gas provides 7% of Glendale’s energy needs; in the future, this figure will increase significantly, provided that the landfill remains open.

  6. Closing the landfill is not a cure-all. The impacts on the environment, our customers, the regional system, and even the city of L.A., are all worsened if we blindly close Scholl Canyon.

We stand at the threshold of an opportunity to enhance the integrated waste management system, but that means having the courage and rationality to engage in an honest dialogue, address real impacts, and recognize the hard facts. There is no perfect public policy; but if we faithfully execute an open decision-making process we will arrive at the best public policy decision.



SCOTT OCHOA is the Glendale city manager and can be reached via email at A second part to this column is planned for next Wednesday.