EL CENTRO – The County board listened to a grim analysis on the valley’s deficit running landfills and the worsening prognosis for future overruns, Tuesday, September 22. The board hired engineer Michael Greenberg to analyze the four operating landfills, Hot Spa, Imperial/Worthington, Niland and Calexico sites, and the three operating transfer stations, Holtville, Ocotillo & the Palo Verde facilities.
Greenberg’s analysis acknowledged the county ran the solid waste system as efficiently as possible, yet the current annual loss of $2 million plus was unavoidable. If the county chose to privatize, the move would only save $200 thousand a year, still costing the county an annual loss of $1.9 million.
Worse yet, the consulting firm gave an estimated cumulative loss in 2044 to be $85.5 million in the red to the county general fund.
The solid waste system is deemed costly because the valley is a large rural area with the population widely spread and the solid waste system spread out as well. The State mandates expensive post closure costs that run indefinitely and those costs are figured in to current costs. Also, the bond expense for the landfills is included.
“Brawley landfills cost the county $60,000 in 2015, and Holtville was $43,000, even though both of those are closed down. The County will have to spend $350 thousand for a regulatory ordinance that calls for drainage improvements,” Greenberg said, making his point that closed landfills still are costly to the county.
According to Greenberg, solid waste is the most regulated industry by the State.
California recently passed laws that will further increase costs to operate landfills, one of the major reasons for the looming $85.5 million loss annually in thirty years. The county charges for waste, and the State calls for less waste from demolition and more recycling of waste as one of many new regulations.
To stop the financial bleeding, the engineering consulting firm recommended doubling the dumping fees and raising them as costs increase. They also recommended closing down all the transfer stations and the Hot Spa and Imperial landfills, leaving only the Niland and Calexico landfills open, even though costs will continue on the closed landfills and transfer stations, just at a lower amount.
Permits are required to dump in county landfills and cost $78 yearly. According to several supervisors, the fee is one of the least expensive in the state. If the consulting firm’s recommendations are implemented, the fees will jump to $210.
“Unfortunately, if we charge enough to operate in the black, that will drive up illegal dumping which costs everyone money, too,” Michael Kelley, Board of Supervisors District 3, said. “Of course, we have been at $78 for twenty years.”