Composting halted at Los Banos landfill

03/09/2013 12:56 AM

03/09/2013 1:01 AM

LOS BANOS -- Merced County authorities temporarily terminated all composting at the Billy Wright Landfill outside of Los Banos in September, resulting in green waste going to the landfill.

"It just makes it more cost-effective," said Jerry Lawrie, environmental research manager at Merced County Regional Waste Management Authority.

A memorandum from the Merced County Regional Waste Management Authority estimated the monthly dumping of green waste to be 30 tons of brush, 150 tons of self-hauled material and 400 tons of waste collected at the curb. It also estimated 35 tons of lumber has been stockpiled every month.

Billy Wright is one of two landfills in the county. Composting has continued at the other one -- the Highway 59 Landfill near Merced.

Lawrie said industrial processes like mulching and composting create volatile organic compounds, like nitrates, that need to be kept from ground and surface water. Keeping Billy Wright compliant with state regulations is too expensive for such a small landfill, Lawrie said. The Highway 59 Landfill is four times the size of Billy Wright.

Lawrie also added that "equipment for composting is extremely expensive."

A composting grinder is roughly $500,000, he said, and a trommel screen used for sorting is an estimated $320,000.

Los Banos residents pay a monthly fee of $32.36 for a 96-gallon blue recycling cart, a 96-gallon green waste cart and a 64-gallon gray trash can. The price goes up to $48.54 if a resident wants a 96-gallon gray can.

For the six months since green waste has been dumped into the landfill, each resident has paid about $64.80 for recycling that has not happened.

Lawrie said the issue is temporarily in limbo, as the Merced County Regional Waste Management Authority board mulls whether to truck Billy Wright green waste to the Highway 59 Landfill or a private dump.

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