Regional water board orders Lincoln to clean up old landfill

By: Carol Percy, Reporter
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In the near future, Lincoln will have to pony up from $6 million to $8 million to stop toxins in an old city landfill from leaching into ground water near Auburn Ravine, according to city officials.

The old landfill is on Virginiatown Road near Hungry Hollow Road.

On June 2, city staff received a “Cleanup and Abatement Order” from the California Regional Water Quality Control Board ordering the city to develop and implement a Corrective Action Plan to “address groundwater impacts and lack of separation between high groundwater and waste” at the 60-year-old closed landfill site on Virginiatown Road east of Lincoln.

During testing of groundwater levels at the landfill, the city reported that the required separation between groundwater and buried waste was less than the minimum five feet of separation. The water board is ordering the city to restore the five feet of separation, according to interim city engineer Jon Crawford.

“Additionally, testing of the groundwater within the limits of the landfill show that leachate from the landfill is migrating into the groundwater,” Crawford explained. “The California Regional Water Quality Control Board is requiring the city to develop a plan to intercept and contain the leachate plume to within the landfill site.”

“Leachate” is water contaminated from the various organic and inorganic substances with which it comes in contact as it migrates through the waste, according to Leachate seeping from a landfill contaminates the ground water beneath the landfill and this contaminated ground water is known as a plume. The normal movement of ground water causes the contaminated waste water (plume) to extend away from a landfill, according to


In June, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board ordered the city to submit a Corrective Action Work Plan by Sept. 30. Crawford said city staff is working on the plan and “it will be submitted by the required date.”

Although the water board did not specify a clean-up method, Crawford said the city will use a “cutoff trench dewatering system” to lower the groundwater level beneath the site, thereby controlling the source of pollutants and “capturing a portion of the down-gradient plume”—the contaminated water that is leaching into fresh groundwater near Auburn Ravine.


At the Lincoln Public Utilities Committee (PUC) meeting on July 31, Crawford said the Virginiatown landfill clean up could cost from $6 million to $8 million.


At present, the city has not identified a source of funding for the landfill clean up, Crawford said.


“Currently, the city has no funding set aside for the implementation of the (landfill) work plan,” Crawford said. “Staff is looking at various options and will be presenting them to the City Council as this project progresses toward implementation.”

In its June 2 Cleanup and Abatement Order, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board warned the city that failure to comply with its directives would result in a fine of “up to $10,000 per violation per day.”

At the public utilities committee meeting on July 31, Lincoln Councilman Spencer Short, the committee’s chairman, said that the money to pay for the landfill cleanup will “likely be coming out of the city’s General Fund.”

“We’ll look into bonds and grants but I don’t know if we’re competitive,” Short said. “The General Fund is currently on the hook for the cleanup.”

The Old Virginiatown landfill site covers about six acres east of downtown Lincoln. From 1952 to 1976, municipal waste was deposited in unlined trenches and the refuse was then burned to reduce volume. In 1976, the landfill was compacted and covered with a thin layer of soil, according to the water board site at


The landfill site closed in 1993, according to a June 2 letter from the California Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The water board ordered the city to submit a report by Oct. 1, 2015 documenting that Lincoln’s chosen landfill mitigation — the cutoff trench dewatering system — has been installed and is operating, according to Wendy Wyels, the compliance and enforcement section’s supervisor of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board.

“Once the system is installed, the city will need to keep operating it as long as the waste remains a threat to water quality,” Wyels said last month.