Los Angeles County's trash will be a treasure for Imperial County, the site of the Mesquite Regional Landfill now under development.
When the site is fully operational, the landfill will create more than 250 new jobs, pay the county more than $17 million a year in host fees and set aside space for 1,000 tons a day for disposal of local trash. It also has the potential for ancillary businesses.
"All the way around, it creates some great opportunities here," said Sue Giller, Imperial County spokeswoman for the project being developed by the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County.
"People here are excited about the project," she said, in particular the jobs it will bring to the county where the unemployment rate currently is nearly 30 percent.
The landfill is located about five miles east of Glamis - or 20 miles west of Yuma - near the Mesquite Gold Mine and is permitted to receive up to 20,000 tons of nonhazardous solid waste a day. It was completed in late 2008 and one cell is ready to receive trash, although it isn't operational yet, said Janet Coke, project manager.
The issue now is the transportation of solid waste from the Los Angeles area to the landfill in the remote desert of eastern Imperial County. The plan is to ultimately ship all the waste by rail car - the first landfill in Southern California permitted to receive waste by rail.
In the most recent development, a $36.3 million contract was awarded in January to Coffman Specialties Inc. of San Diego to construct a five-mile rail spur from the existing Union Pacific railroad track and a 100-acre intermodal railyard at the landfill.
Work is expected to begin on the rail project this spring, Coke said.
At the same time, construction is under way on the Puente Hills Intermodal Facility in Los Angeles, she said. "The hope is to have both ends of the rail system in place by early 2012."
The plan is to sort and load the trash into rail containers at the L.A. processing center, transport the containers by rail 200 miles to the landfill intermodal center, then download the trash to trucks to take it across the street to the landfill for disposal, Coke said.
Once fully operational, she said, the plan is to run five trains a day to the landfill, each carrying 4,000 tons of municipal trash in 170 containers on 65 rail cars.
In the meantime, an effort is under way to receive a permit to start bringing in some trash by truck, Coke said. Trucking would also provide some flexibility in moving the trash until the landfill is operating at capacity.
"If we don't have the volume for a full unit train, we're asking to take some by truck. The volume could fluctuate day by day. If we needed to export 6,000 tons of trash to Mesquite, we could put 4,000 tons on a train. That would leave 2,000 tons, but we need to keep it moving."
Coke said the landfill was originally proposed several years ago by owners of the Mesquite Gold Mine. "They recognized the finite life to gold mining and wanted another project to provide jobs and continue to be an economic engine for Imperial County. They were going to put the landfill next to the mine."
However, after going through the permitting process, they realized that as gold mine operators they weren't in a position to operate a landfill, she said.
In the meantime, the L.A. County Sanitation Districts had been looking for a new solution to solid waste disposal as the landfills in the metropolitan area were nearing the end of their life, Coke said. So in 2002, the districts acquired the Mesquite Regional Landfill project.
She said the Mesquite Landfill has a 600-million-ton capacity and is expected to last about 100 years. The landfill is a state-of-the-art facility. The first cell has been lined with a five-foot-thick, multilayer system that exceeds local, state and federal standards.
Giller noted the location is an area where the groundwater is deep. Another advantage to the location is that it is near the gold mine.
"The landfill needs dirt to cover the waste, and dirt is available from the gold mine. That solves a huge problem."
Joyce Lobeck can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6853.