Op-Ed: Separating myth and reality at Scholl Canyon

For nearly a decade, the city of Glendale has been processing an environmental impact report (EIR) for the expansion of Scholl Canyon Landfill. This landfill, operated by the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, was first opened in 1961 and is slated to remain open until approximately 2035, unless its permit is extended. The cities of Glendale, Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge, Sierra Madre and San Marino are part of the wasteshed that disposes municipal solid waste at the landfill. The city of Los Angeles is no longer officially in the wasteshed. The facility plays an important role in Glendale's Zero Waste plan and will be the linchpin in the advent of conversion technologies.

Not surprisingly, as the EIR review process progresses, the amount of misinformation — sometimes intentional, sometimes just ill-informed, intensifies. Yet the Glendale City Council has an obligation to all Glendale residents and businesses — as well as regional stakeholders, as part of the larger integrated waste management system — to make policy based on rational fact.

Thus, we need to separate the myth from the reality:

  1. Glendale’s motivation in processing the EIR is not to maximize revenue; if it were, Glendale could have increased the tonnage being processed at the landfill.

  2. “Unavoidable” impacts and environmental concerns have been taken out of context or are flat wrong. For example, concerns about vinyl chloride levels at the landfill during the 1980s are being used now to scare folks into opposing the landfill.

  3. There are no plans for an immediate expansion of the landfill. The consistent message from the city has been that while expansion of the landfill is but one option for consideration in the future disposal of waste in Glendale, we are focusing efforts on alternative methods for disposal as they become available.

  4. The city of Glendale is a progressive leader in Zero Waste programming and is committed to waste conversion technologies (CT).

  5. Glendale is moving forward with an anaerobic digestion CT project at Scholl Canyon that will process organic waste only (yard clippings and food), but not general municipal solid waste. The high-grade methane gas produced from this proven process will be used to power Grayson Power Plant.

  6. Closing the landfill is not an environmental panacea. The trash has to go somewhere and trucking it out to the north San Fernando Valley or the desert has significant and even more pronounced environmental impacts and costs to Glendale residents and businesses.

The city of Glendale's vision for Scholl Canyon is to have a clean, high-tech waste conversion facility with a landfill component, not a landfill with a conversion technology component. This evolution will take time, particularly because technologies like gasification, pyrolysis, plasma arc, etc., are not yet reliable, cost-effective or permitted. We have an obligation to make rational environmental and economic policy decisions, understanding that not everyone will agree, but that will best serve our community — and our region — well into the future.



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.