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Find a new location, operator for Clover Flat Landfill

  • Updated

There is an on-going public discussion whether the Clover Flat Landfill, located between St. Helena and Calistoga in a steep mountain and canyon of the Dutch Henry watershed since 1963, should continue to serve the public with refuse/disposal needs.

CFL has, unfortunately, severely eroded the public trust due to their long history of regulatory and code violations regarding the county use permit, state facility’s permit, San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Wastewater Discharge Requirement to protect surface and groundwater quality, municipal health and safety/nuisance, Cal Fire and Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Since 2013 there have been numerous Cal Fire violations and endangerment of the public and the environment from 26 incidences including 13 fires.

Landfill leachate is characterized by high organic and inorganic pollutant concentrations (Bodzek et al., 2006) and is extremely toxic to the environment. Due to its high toxicity, landfill leachate is a major threat to aquifers and surface water health status. Many of CFL’s regulatory violations included poor management of leachate through 2019 including deliberately opening a valve on a containment of poisonous leachate that then drained into a stream and hence the Napa River. This prompted health warning to be posted on the Napa River restricting contact with the Napa River.

CFL leachate is so toxic East Bay MUD, which usually takes leachate for special disposal processes, refused CFL’s leachate.

On May 8, 2019, CFL endangered their employee who was injured and went to the hospital from a hazardous waste explosion. CFL allowed a famous winery to dump the equivalent of six 50-gallon barrels of hazardous waste into their landfill which exploded when their equipment drove over it.

Again on May 13, 2019, five employees were exposed to high levels of radiation contained in three frack tanks (from the shale fracking fields) purchased from North Dakota and then used by CFL to store leachate. One employee needed high-level specialized hospital care due to radiation poisoning.

CFL owners developed an illegal road above the landfill, which eroded into a stream of the Napa River. This meant no erosion control best management practices were in place. The eroded soil’s composition high in sulfur reacted in contact with the stream during storms and formed sulfuric acid which then polluted the creek and the Napa River.

Six of eight groundwater monitoring wells have been in disrepair throughout 2019. Two are still not working and they are in critical monitoring locations near a stream and in the alluvium of the Napa River. The alluvium groundwater monitoring well is an important location for collecting pollution data due to the CFL leachate illicit discharge events of 2019. The leachate is percolating and infiltrating into the alluvium of the Napa River as a result of egregious leachate seepage, ponding and runoff events throughout 2019. Past data from some of these wells have shown elevated volatile organic levels that are harmful to life.

Since these severe regulatory violations were caught by oversight agencies in January of 2019 upon what started out a “routine inspection,” fines and corrective actions have been numerous and very costly to the public to get CFL to comply with their permits. Cal Fire had been sending notices to CFL since 2013 for failing to abate fire hazards.

CFL owners are saying that they have reformed their bad patterns and practice of doing business. Can we trust this? What is at stake is the health and safety of the public and our threatened environment that is terribly in danger due to climate change caused by humans.

Other important factors should be considered about CFL’s location such as the location of CFL in steep mountains and canyons means their 100-year storm event metric for holding/storing leachate can fail as all storm events beyond and up to 100-year events are now more frequent due to climate change and large storm events will come more frequently causing the CFL management of leachate (driven to Santa Rosa for disposal) to become unmanageable; fires pose a clear and present danger in this fire-prone area and given that CFL produces large amounts of methane gas, this is a time bomb waiting to explode.

Last but not least, CFL is located in a very seismically active area, and is surrounded by several major faults including a) San Andreas, 33 miles west; b) Green Valley, 30 miles southeast; c) Healdsburg-Rodgers Creek, 12 miles southwest; and d) Maacama, 8 miles northwest. A fault zone and three small thrust faults have been mapped at the site. The fault zone is well exposed in excavations of the canyon walls and on the north-facing slopes.

The landfill is in a dangerous location due to runoff, fire and earthquake. Management history of the landfill by the current owners raises concerns of trust for the public’s health safety and welfare. Common sense says, find another location and some other entity to run this lucrative business.

Chris Malan


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