May 14, 2013

Puente Hills landfill is an awesome sight

I have yet to follow our trash haulers to our local landfill in Virginia, but I have been to the largest operating landfill in America, Puente Hills in Los Angeles County.

Most people on California vacation like to explore museums, shops or  natural wonders. But I had been enthralled with Puente Hills Landfill since I read Edward Humes book, Garbology. 

Luckily, Puente Hills' Public Information guru, Don Avila, offered me a tour when I phoned him. My husband humored me since we had a rental car and the landfill would only be 30 minutes from the Queen Mary in Long Beach where we were staying. That is another topic for a future blog post.

But Puente Hills is slated to close in late 2013 and I wondered where all of Los Angeles County garbage would go. Would they really send it by rail 200 miles away?

Puente Hills' 1400 acres, filled with closely orchestrated activities with "garbage," was mind-boggling. Don gave us a "data dump" of facts and figures that overwhelmed my note-taking. More than 1000 trucks of household and commercial garbage arrive at Puente Hills every day. Anywhere from 5000 to 7000 tons per day. The "white goods" accumulate in one area; tires in another.

The "active cell" of the landfill is the main ring of this multi-pronged circus. Seriously, it was a show to behold as the giant bulldozers spread out the garbage as quickly as it arrived. then covered it at the end of the day. A lot of stereotypes about landfills were debunked.

No food source for rats! So no rats.

NO smells surprised us too. But this particular landfill has the advantage of sitting in a desert climate. Little rainfall means no leachate of toxic materials into the water table.

NO dust either--as water trucks spray down the area as needed for the landfill to be a "good neighbor" in their community.

VERY FEW seagulls either. Monofilament lines stretched from high poles deter these pesky critters. If that fails, some lucky guy has the fun job of shooting flares or firing a small cannon to scare them away.

Don Avila's two-hour tour (which included seeing the recycling center and methane-burning power plant) showed me that "sanitary landfill" is not an oxymoron. The word "landfill" is actually a misnomer since most are not actually filled, but approach amazing heights. Puente Hills, with origins to 1957, is currently more than 540 feet high.

More on our local Mount Trashmore near Virginia Beach and our local landfills in a future posting.

If you'd like to see what National Geographic had to say in their special, Inside Garbage Mountain, look at this.