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Landfills Make Air Pollution Too
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced March 28 that Forward Inc., of Manteca, has agreed to a settlement to resolve alleged violations of air pollution laws at its landfill in Manteca. The settlement requires Forward to spend approximately $3.8 million to improve the landfill’s gas collection and control system and to replace trucks in the landfill’s fleet with less polluting vehicles. Forward has also agreed to pay a civil penalty of $200,000, to be shared with the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District, a co-plaintiff in the enforcement action against Forward.
“Today’s settlement is good news for the families of the San Joaquin Valley,” said Benjamin B. Wagner, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California. “Cleaning up the Valley’s air so that our children can breathe easier is important for all of us.”
“Landfill fires that deteriorate the air quality in San Joaquin Valley are unacceptable,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Our federal enforcement action requires the landfill to spend $3.8 million to eliminate the risk of polluting fires and replace old diesel trucks with cleaner burning vehicles.”
The settlement resolves allegations that Forward violated the Clean Air Act by operating gas extraction wells in the landfill’s gas system in violation of the permit it had received from the District, and that Forward did not obtain permits required for equipment at the landfill. Federal law requires large landfills that are significant emitters of air pollution to install and operate systems that will collect gasses, such as air toxics, organic compounds, and methane, out of the decomposing refuse and destroy them, rather than allowing them to escape into the atmosphere. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. These systems are to be operated so that they draw and collect as much gas as possible without pulling air into the landfill that can start fires in the decomposing waste. The complaint alleges that Forward operated its gas system such that it caused multiple fires at the Manteca landfill.
The settlement requires Forward to overhaul the landfill’s gas system by November 2012 to improve gas control and collection and to bring the facility back into compliance with CAA regulations governing landfills, which will require an investment of approximately $1.7 million. The settlement also requires Forward to implement specific operations and maintenance actions to minimize air intrusion and the likelihood of subsurface fires at the landfill.
The settlement will also benefit the San Joaquin Valley’s air and its communities by reducing emissions of particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxide (NOx), which can cause and exacerbate health problems, haze, and smog. PM is a pollutant commonly associated with landfill fires, and Forward will reduce its PM emissions by replacing 19 diesel trucks it currently owns with cleaner burning vehicles by the end of 2013, at an estimated cost of $2.1 million. This will directly reduce PM by 3.4 tons and NOx by 83.2 tons, and will result in further indirect reductions of PM, as NOx is a precursor of PM. The NOx reductions yield a double benefit, as NOx is also a precursor for ozone, and the San Joaquin Valley is an extreme non-attainment area for ozone, another pollutant linked to health problems and smog.
The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval and may be viewed at www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.
For more information about CAA landfill regulations, please visit the EPA’s web site at: http://www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/landfill/landflpg.html#IMP.
For more information about California air quality plans, please visit EPA’s web site at: