As garbage piles up in the Burbank landfill, city officials are left scrambling to find a solution to a dilemma that has placed them squarely between federal regulations and a potential 32% rate hike for garbage fees.
“The day of reckoning has arrived,” Public Works Director Ora Lampman said this week when a $40-million construction plan to extend the life of the landfill to the mid-point of the next century was unveiled.
But paying for the project--and meeting the federal regulations--would mean that as of July, collection rates for residential garbage would have gone from $12.77 a month for a 64-gallon can to $16.86 a month. The rate for a 35-gallon can would rise from $7 to $9.24, and fees for commercial customers would jump 25%, from $101.94 a month to $127.43.
But those rate hikes were rejected by the City Council after the proposal was presented during the panel’s weekly meeting Tuesday, with Councilman Dave Golonski good-naturedly giving public works staff members the “thumbs down” sign.
“I don’t think that in my whole time on the council, we’ve ever faced this kind of predicament,” Councilman Bob Bowne said, later adding: “I’m just not going to accept a rate increase like this. There’s just no way.”
The new federal regulations went into effect in October, prohibiting landfill operators from using areas of the landfill that are on a slope unless they install a plastic liner with a leachate collection system. The Burbank landfill, which has no liner, had already been filled and the city has had to pile garbage on top of garbage since then, said Mary Glazer, public works administrator.
The city wants to find a solution before the start of the next rainy season. But the cost to construct improvements is expected to be $14 million to $15 million within 3 1/2 years, and the regulations also require the city to set up a trust fund to pay for all improvements needed for the landfill throughout its lifetime, bringing the cost up to $40 million and requiring the rate hikes.
The council ordered city staff members to find an alternative, and Glazer said they have been in contact with state and other regulatory officials to get permission to use a nearby debris basin--with a liner--as a temporary landfill to take the pressure off Burbank. The city would then have a chance to find a more affordable way to pay for the construction.
“We’re trying to lessen the amount of the rate increase and spread it out over a period of a few years,” Glazer said.
But the problem in Burbank is one that will probably be repeated elsewhere, she said.
“A lot of cities and companies are all going to be in the same boat we are,” Glazer said, referring to the new regulations.