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What's going on with Salton City landfill?


Why has the county been so careful and so low-key in not providing information about the Public Works Department leasing out the county's Salton City Landfill to Burrtec Industries? Why has this been so hushed up? This 99-year lease was so low-key in its negotiations and final contractual agreement that, when voted upon by the Board of Supervisors, it is only noted as a small agenda item at the end of a meeting two years ago. I wish to know what the first $2 million payment went to or for, and what has become of the yearly $1 million payment. My sources say it was to be used for the new equipment and services for the county's Solid Waste Department, but no new equipment or much of anything else has been given to this department. So where, how and for what have these funds been used? And what about the county residents who used the Salton City Landfill? – Feeling trashed

AWe talked with Imperial County Director of Public Works Bill Brunet, and he told us the Salton City Landfill lease negotiation between the county and Burrtec Waste Industries was a year-long process “done in the open” up until its approval at a December 2008 Board of Supervisors meeting.

The contractual agreement is a public document, meaning anyone can request it at the county’s Public Works Department. Brunet also told us the Salton City Landfill was costing too much money to maintain mostly because of new environmental regulations.

To remedy the landfill’s costs, the county decided to look for private companies interested in managing the landfill. A call for proposals and public hearings followed.

Burrtec ultimately won the bid to not only maintain, but also to expand the landfill from 8 acres to 320 acres for 99 years. This contract calls Burrtec to pay $5 million and, depending on the amount of waste put in the landfill, a minimum $500,000 a year thereafter.

The agreement, Brunet said, was a “pretty good deal” that turned cost into profit.

The letter writer was correct in the first amount provided: Burrtec has so far paid $2 million; the first million in 2009 and the second million in 2010.

The remaining $3 million will be paid in two stages: $1.5 million once the regulatory permits and studies for the landfill’s expansion are ready, which may happen in about a year, the other $1.5 million will come when Burrtec finishes expanding the landfill and starts putting waste into it.

When this will happen is still not known. The funds coming from Burrtec in the upcoming years will be used to close other landfills in the county and some of it will be set aside to close the Salton City Landfill when the time comes, Assistant County Executive Officer Jerry Santillan told us.

According to him it costs around $15 million to properly close just one landfill. The $2 million referred to by the Probe writer is set aside and will go toward future closing expenses.

Finally, residents of the unincorporated portion of the county who have paid the $78 land use fee that comes every year with their property taxes can use the Salton City landfill for free, Brunet said, provided they to go the county’s Public Works Department and ask for a permit that is also issued for free. All other residents have to pay the department in accordance to what they will dispose, Brunet said.   

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