Fight to Block San Diego Riverfront Landfill Continues Strong

The fight to stop the proposed Gregory Canyon Landfill in northern San Diego County continued Monday night with a raucous public meeting in Fallbrook held by California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle). The Local Enforcement Agency (“LEA”) recently approved the landfill’s operating permit, and CalRecycle, the state oversight agency, now must concur with or object to the LEA’s decision. NRDC and our coalition partners are fighting this permit tooth and nail, challenging the LEA’s decision in court and inundating CalRecycle with written comments and verbal testimony explaining why Gregory Canyon is the worst possible place the state could approve the siting of a landfill.

As has been the case at every public meeting concerning this project over the last several years (see, for example, here), the overwhelming majority of speakers at this meeting expressed their strong opposition to the landfill.  Commenters blasted the project for its potential to contaminate local drinking water sources, the increased greenhouse gases the landfill will create, and the fact that this dump is no longer needed due to a decrease in county waste and increased recycling rates.

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Molly Johnson (NRDC)

Chairman Smith of the Pala Band of Mission Indians spoke eloquently about sacred places like Gregory Mountain that would be desecrated by the landfill, the threat to his reservation’s drinking water sources, and the chance that CalRecycle now has before it to fix the mistake the LEA made when initially approving the permit.  The room erupted in applause following his brief comments.  County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price lambasted the project’s investors, who funneled money into ballot initiatives in order to sidestep the regulatory process.  More enthusiastic applause broke out after her comments.

Kris Leefers, one of our terrific summer legal interns, attended the meeting and spoke passionately in opposition to the project.  Below are her thoughtful, personal reflections on the experience:

“I was very proud and honored to speak on behalf of NRDC about the numerous problems with this proposed landfill’s location, specifically regarding water sources, pollution, endangered species, and sacred sites.  I understand the health and environmental problems associated with landfills. Growing up, I happened to live in a house located next to a park that had once been a landfill.  As a teenager, my family entered into litigation over the landfill because pollution from the landfill actually came up under our property, and under the family vegetable garden.  Ten years later, my family had to move out of the place we had called our home for over twenty years.

"Giving testimony on behalf of NRDC and hearing all the other testimony was very moving.  I want to do everything I can to defeat this landfill project.   I wonder if things would have been different for my home if this many people cared about stopping that landfill fifty years ago.  I feel connected to this issue and to the people in San Diego County fighting to keep the landfill out of Gregory Canyon.  One commenter stated at the meeting that ‘only fools risk what they cannot afford to lose.’  The Pala Groundwater Basin, which lies beneath the proposed landfill site, is truly a resource that these communities cannot afford to lose, just like the flora and fauna, and cultural, spiritual and historical significance of the Gregory Canyon area.  Spending three hours in a room with so many passionate, sincere and well-informed individuals was inspiring, and will help keep me working hard to stop the landfill.”

We are extremely proud of Kris and thankful for her efforts, as well as the efforts of dozens of other local residents and elected officials who dropped everything on a weeknight to speak out on this important issue. I hope CalRecycle was listening. The agency has to make its decision on the permit by July 15th. There's still time to join our fight by submitting written comments here.

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