FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
preparing a new landfill cell

A new cell is covered with high-density polyethylene liner material in preparation for the expansion of Potrero Hills Landfill, Aug. 13, 2014, in Suisun City. The material prevents the trash from contaminating the water supply, and this 40 foot high section is expected to be covered with waste within one year. (Steve Reczkowski/Daliy Republic)

Solano County

Potrero Hills Landfill grows one cell at a time

By From page A1 | August 17, 2014

SUISUN CITY — Making room at Potrero Hills Landfill for more garbage involves more than just moving around some dirt and tossing in the trash.

Dirt did get moved to create the latest trash disposal area or cell – 450,000 cubic yards. But the project also involves putting down a polyethylene liner and installing drains to comply with environmental laws.

“Nothing leaks out,” said David Jappert of Waste Connections Inc., the company that owns the landfill. “It’s kind of like a bathtub.”

Potrero Hills Landfill takes garbage from Fairfield and Suisun City, as well as other counties such as Napa County. It is located a few miles southeast of Suisun City in the hills of Suisun Marsh.

The landfill over the years has grown in sections, or cells. It has a couple dozen cells and has room for a few more in the existing landfill footprint.

Preparing sections of the landfill with liner as needed makes more economic sense for Waste Connections than lining the entire landfill at once. The landfill has existed since 1986.

But this latest cell is different from the others. It is on the edge of the landfill. Workers moved that 450,000 cubic yards of dirt to create a berm along the landfill’s southern end. The berm is about 40 feet tall with a vertical slope of 80 feet. It is a quarter-mile long.

The berm and the flank of an existing landfill cell on the opposite side create a small canyon. As trash gets poured in, the canyon will turn into a hillside.

“It’s going to give us about two years of capacity,” Jappert said.

Jappert said the new cell should be finished this month and perhaps will begin taking in trash in September or October. It depends when the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board approves the work.

A key part of construction happened this past week. Workers took rolls of black, high-density polyethylene liner that Jappert compared to rolls of paper towels. Then they unrolled the liner down the 80-foot-long vertical face of the berm.

The polyethylene liner gets protected by a geotextile material and topped by fine-grained sand. All of this is done to protect the polyethylene liner. Only then will the discarded items from daily life get poured on top, with a layer of the softer trash going first.

Visible from the new landfill cell is a valley covered by brush. This area is targeted for the future Potrero Hills Landfill expansion, beyond the footprint of the present-day landfill. That brushy valley is to allow the landfill to continue to operate once the present-day landfill has no more room for garbage.

Potrero Hills Landfill has worked for more than a decade to secure the expansion site, fending off several court challenges. Opponents said a bigger landfill could hurt environmentally sensitive Suisun Marsh and discourage recycling by making relatively cheap landfill space available to communities in other counties.

The state Court of Appeal in April took up the final legal case and decided in favor of the landfill expansion. Expansion opponents’ final legal hope is that the state Supreme Court agrees to review the case.

Garbage flow to the landfill has slowed with the recession. The state reports that Potrero Hills Landfill takes in about half of its annual capacity of 1 million tons to 1.4 million tons.

“It’s still about half, I would say,” Jappert said. “We’re not seeing a big upturn. We’re anticipating it, because the economy seems to be getting better.”

Solano County also sees more economic activity generating more trash. The 2014-15 county budget for the fiscal year that started July 1 calls for $1.2 million more in disposal fee revenue for county coffers, an increase from $2.7 million to $3.9 million.

As garbage continues to flow into Potrero Hills Landfill, the landfill will continue to make room for it – one cell at a time.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.
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Discussion | 10 comments

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  • elleryAugust 17, 2014 - 12:11 am

    Amazing how much we throw away. Can we start with banning plastic bags ?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • 2realAugust 17, 2014 - 8:56 am

    Then we wont have nothing to throw the trash into. What do you use for a trash bag in say... your bathroom?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. PracticalAugust 17, 2014 - 12:48 pm

    2real, that brings up a good point. Are the bathroom, kitchen and yard bags that we purchase and less of an issue? Is banning them next?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • mikeAugust 17, 2014 - 1:09 pm

    America's garbage problem will continue to grow and will get out of hand. The Potrero hills landfill will fill quicker than you think especially when we take other cities garbage. The county has wavered the 900,000 metric ton yearly limit. Soon all that area will be bladders of garbage. What will happen when the oldest one start giving way,it will leak into the ground water and marsh. A huge polluted mess. The answer is total 100% recycling. It can be done. But America the consumer unconscious will just throw away. Out of sight,out of mind.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rick WoodAugust 17, 2014 - 1:16 pm

    San Francisco is exploiting Solano County for landfill capacity just like Los Angeles exploited Inyo County (Owens Valley) for water supply. San Francisco is not entitled to claim any moral high ground.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • mikeAugust 20, 2014 - 8:24 pm

    Somebody say something here .How can we stand by watch other countries pollute our grounds. I'm seeing a whole lot of comfortable opinions not addressing the reality long term consequences. Let's get real people.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Money talksAugust 20, 2014 - 9:22 pm

    What do you want to know? The Solano people were winning in court, so the landfill owners got the legislature to pass a bill making an initiative like Solano had to limit imports illegal. The Board of Supervisors backed the landfill owners over its own citizens. End of story.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • mikeAugust 20, 2014 - 10:28 pm

    It doesn't have to be this way. Let's be the trend setter that california has been in the past. Make a SOLUTION. Find out how to make 100% recilicing possible. Why can't it come from California as the forefront of the 21st century. Turn reclining into a, state sanction. The jobs available would be endless. We can get paid for reclining at the curbside. Instead of sending a bill the state would send a check

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  • Mr. PracticalAugust 21, 2014 - 6:18 am

    MIke, we're talking trash from other countries now? Mexico? Canada? Russia? This has to stop.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StR @ Mr. PracticalAugust 21, 2014 - 6:25 am

    I have a recipe for you......1 cup (8 oz) water.... 2 Tblspoons Jack Daniels (80 proof !) 2 Tblspoons Organic, unpasteurized Apple cider vinegar ( with the "mother ) and 1 and a half to two Tblspoons of Good quality honey.....makes good cough syrup and helps when you have a cold.....try this if you get ill this year.... got to go enforcer has returned...Bye

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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