On Friday, February 8, 14 members of SC Green talked trash with fellow member Mike Giancola during a tour of Prima Deshecha landfill led by Giancola, who heads operations there.

On Friday, February 8, 14 members of SC Green talked trash with fellow member Mike Giancola during a tour of Prima Deshecha landfill led by Giancola, who heads operations there. Gary and Laurie Headrick arranged for the tour of the massive facility that serves Orange County as well as some San Diego County communities.

During a conference-room briefing and a far-ranging van ride, SC Green members learned we South Orange Countians generate more than our share of waste: the national average is 5 pounds per person per day; here, we each dispose of 8 pounds per day. The landfill processes 1,700 tons of trash each day.

What do they do with all that trash? They dump it into a big plastic bag. At a cost of $1/2-million per acre, they clear an area, then install an impervious liner that keeps toxins from seeping to the groundwater. When they?re through filling a section, they seal it on top and bury it. Giancola says their overriding goal is to produce no environmental impact outside the facility and no adverse impact on their neighbors. Gases captured from the waste presently provide electricity for 2,700 homes.

One startling realization that surfaced while we watched giant earthmovers and bulldozers distributing and crushing the waste amidst clouds of seagulls is that what we throw away lasts forever. While the big plastic bags keep the waste from polluting the environment, they also keep it from degrading away. In fact, Giancola told us, even without the new containment technology, core samples taken from ancient unbagged New York landfills found recognizable food and readable newspapers 400 feet below the surface. The moral: We must reduce the amount of trash we dispose of if we don?t want South County buried in it someday. SC Green will be discussing ways of doing that in coming months.

In SC Green member and San Clemente resident Giancola, we have an environmentally astute steward for this complex landfill enterprise. An avid gardener, Giancola, along with a Stanford-trained onsite biologist, manages the landfill as a native habitat recovery area. They have been successful in replanting and attracting a number of threatened and endangered plant and animal species.

Interested in touring Prima Deshecha, which lies south of Ortega Highway on La Pata? Call Mike Giancola?s office at 949 728-3043. For more information: http://www.oclandfills.com/landfill_prima.asp

Steve Netherby

SEE PHOTOS HERE http://picasaweb.google.com/garyheadrick/PrimaDesechaLandfillTour