SALTON CITY – Highway 86 will be improved to accommodate a landfill near Salton City that’s set to gradually expand from three to 287 acres to handle hundreds of truckloads of trash daily from throughout Southern California.
Work has already begun to grow the controversial landfill that’s about two miles southwest of Salton City.
The project had drawn criticism and praise from nearby residents, and concerns from officials in Riverside County, which sued Imperial County and Burrtec Waste Industries in 2012 claiming Imperial County failed to consider how a bigger landfill would crowd roads and worsen air quality in Riverside County.
The counties and Burrtec signed off on a settlement agreement in August that calls on Burtecc to pay $214,097 to help cover immediate intersection improvements along Highway 86, plus more money for five major intersection upgrades once the need arises.
Future studies will be needed to determine the price and cost-sharing breakdown of overpass projects for the intersections at 62nd, 66th, 70th, 81st and 84th avenues.
Ray Smith, a spokesman for Riverside County, said this week the agreement accomplishes the county’s goal of having Burrtec pay a fair portion of the costs for highway projects to improve traffic flow and address congestion and pollutions concerns.
“Anytime we have that kind of increase in traffic, not just for this project but overall, you have to make improvements to accommodate growth,” Smith said.
In a court filing, Riverside County officials said the expanded landfill would add more than 348 truck trips per day along their part of Highway 86, significantly hurting the county’s air quality.
“Such impacts will degrade the quality of life, health standards and economy of Riverside County and thus must be mitigated,” the filing said.
A representative from Burrtec did not return multiple messages seeking comment.
William Brunet, director of public works for Imperial County, said Burrtec has received all the needed permits and is constructing the first segment of the expanded landfill.
He said the landfill has continued to accept trash and the expanded portion could operate by January.
“They’re permitted for 6,000 tons a day,” Brunet said. “They are going to start slowly, ramping up to 1,000 tons a day.”
Some expect the extra traffic to be good for businesses along Highway 86, while others don’t want their community to be associated with such a large trash repository.
Fran Aldridge, president of the Salton Community Services District Board, said she’s heard from concerned residents but believes the landfill will be an overall win for the area.
Aldridge said the district had discussed receiving 25 cents for each truckload of trash going to landfill to pay for services like parks, streetlights and its fire department.
But Mitch Mansfield, the district’s general manager, said no such deal was in the works. Burrtec supports the community with donations, and support from the landfill could come later, he said.
“As far as monetary value, there’s nothing really to talk about,” Mansfield said. “Four or five years down the road, maybe.”
The project is expected to generate huge revenues for Imperial County, bringing in excess of $6.3 million by 2022 while only costing taxpayers an estimated $18,000 for various public services, according to a 2011 fiscal impact analysis.
Everett English is among the Salton City residents who fears the landfill will become the best-known feature of the already challenged community, which was once hailed as a tourist destination but has struggled in the midst of environmental concerns at the Salton Sea.
English, 69, dubbed the landfill, which could rise as high as 250 feet above the ground, “Mount Trashmore.”
“With all of the odors and everything, it’s going to be a terrible place to live,” he said. “It isn’t so much the odors from the landfill; it’s the odors from the trucks going down the road.”