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Landfill smell concerns residents

Waste authority studying odor, seeking public input
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Until 2005, the Western Placer Waste Management Authority didn’t have a process for documenting odor complaints, and they didn’t need one.

The agency had operated the Western Regional Sanitary Landfill since 1978, located in an unincorporated area of Placer County bordered by the cities of Roseville, Rocklin and Lincoln.

“The primary reason we picked this area is because it was pretty remote and near agricultural uses,” said Deputy Director Will Dickinson during a community workshop Thursday. “Of course, that’s changed over time.”

Since then housing developments have inched closer and closer to the landfill.

The government agency held the workshop to solicit public input from the roughly 25 residents in attendance regarding their concerns — primarily with the smell.

“It’s awful,” said west Roseville resident Al Tesser. “We’ve called a few times to complain and they’re very polite and told me they were going to look into it. It’s nice of them to keep us posted.”

He and his wife moved to the Diamond Creek neighborhood seven years ago. The smell has been bad the whole time, he said.

“I’m just hoping they’ll be able to do something,” Olga Tesser said. “I don’t know why the smell occurs. Maybe they can do it at night and not when we’re trying to have a barbecue in the afternoon.”

Resident Monty Simmons also lives in Diamond Creek.

“We’ve noticed it for a long time,” said Simmons, a real estate agent. “I’ve had two clients who didn’t purchase in the area because of that. There are times when I don’t even want to be outside because the smell is so bad.”

Sources of on-site odor

The Western Regional Sanitary Landfill is the only active landfill in Placer County. The landfill, located down the road from Thunder Valley Casino, is permitted through 2042, and should have sufficient capacity through 2058.

The agency also operates a materials recovery facility and a composting facility at the site, both built in 1995 to assist local cities with meeting California state requirements to divert recyclables from land disposal.

The agency pulled 65,000 tons of recyclable material from the waste stream during the 2010-11 fiscal year. The amount recovered in a three-month period is enough to fill up a football field 50-feet high, said Junior Engineer Stephanie Ulmer.

They process 55,000 tons of compost annually, and collected 3.2 million pounds of hazardous waste last year.

Starting in 2000, the areas north, east and south of the facilities have experienced substantial growth. Placer County has established a 1-mile buffer around the landfill prohibiting residential development.

Local real-estate agent Kate Tustin said sellers have to disclose information about a nearby landfill to potential buyers if the landfill “will affect someone living in the home.” A Natural Hazards Zone Disclosure report also provides information on landfill facilities.

April Marskell moved with her family to the Blue Oaks neighborhood in west Roseville in 2006.

“I had no idea what I was in for,” Marskell said of the smell.

In the early 2000s, the amount of green waste collected by the agency began to skyrocket. They were seeing double-digit growth annually and were overwhelmed, said Program Manager Eric Oddo.

The increase in green waste corresponded with the new development. As the agency processed more green waste — such as leaves, grass and branches — they also began receiving more odor complaints.

They went from six complaints in 2005 to 48 in 2007. This year, the agency has received nine complaints (although they’ve found that some residents no longer report the issue).

In 2007, the agency conducted an odor survey and found two main sources for on-site odor: compost operations and methane gas produced at the landfill as waste decomposes.

The compost operation is located about 1.7 miles from the nearest residential area.

The agency has implemented odor-reducing measures, including expanding the landfill gas collection system, use of more advanced machinery to move and turn compost, and better housekeeping practices.

But the smell remains.

Other sources exacerbate smell

The agency is trying to get a better handle on when the odor is most pungent to determine contributing factors and how weather conditions come into play.

Some residents say the smell is worst in the afternoon or when the wind blows. Dickinson, who lives in Rocklin two and half miles away from the facility, thinks the smell is bad in the morning or when the air is cold and stagnant.

“There are other sources that can combine and exacerbate (the smell),” Oddo said.

The Sunset Industrial Area is located in an unincorporated area directly north of the Crocker Ranch and Diamond Creek neighborhoods of Roseville. There is Thunder Valley Casino’s wastewater treatment plant, a wood-fueled electrical generating facility, a turkey and dairy farm, septic sludge processing facility, propane gas dealer and the Mallard Creek Compost facility.

The waste management authority has other measures planned to fight the odor generated from their facilities, including expanding the compost facility from seven to 15 acres.

“It’s just to handle what we’re already receiving,” Oddo said.

Compost smells worst the first few days when it’s immature and whenever the pile is agitated, which currently happens on a daily basis. A larger facility gives the compost more space to sit longer and age, which will reduce the odor. The facility will include an aerated leachate pond and cedar trees nearby to absorb and disperse odors.

Oddo said they can’t make an indoor operation because this becomes “inordinately expensive,” and a cost absorbed by ratepayers.

“We know we’re not going to eliminate (the odor),” he said. “What we’re trying to do is manage it the best we can.”

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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Seeking help: The Western Placer Waste Management Authority is asking residents to help track when odor occurs. The agency plans to implement a tool on its website for residents to report this information at www.wpwma.com.

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When detecting an odor, call the Western Placer Waste Management Authority, at (916) 543-3960 or after hours at (530) 889-7515.