A mixed bag of potential consequences detailed in the preliminary Environmental Impact Report for Tajiguas landfill has prompted some local conservationists to talk trash of the proposed 54-percent expansion.

The landfill, which the county began operating in 1967, is located about 26 miles west of the city of Santa Barbara, off Highway 101 on the north Gaviota coast. Presently, it is permitted to receive approximately 1,500 tons of nonhazardous, solid garbage per day. However, due to the county’s growing population, Tajiguas has only five years left worth of capacity. The expansion aims to add 4.9 million tons of solid waste to the current 9.1 million-ton capacity or 15 years of capacity beyond the remaining five.

The draft version of the EIR outlines effects of the expansion on the groundwater, plant and animal life and on land stability. Public input will be included in the EIR’s final draft, which will be released in spring of 2002, at which time the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will make a final decision about the expansion.

At a public meeting held last Monday in Goleta, locals shared their concerns about the proposed expansion. Gaviota Coastal Conservancy member Bob Hazard said he was concerned about water in close proximity to the garbage and the effects of the landfill on the groundwater.

“A lot of us know there’s water under the landfill. The question’s been asked, where the water comes from,” he said. “Fifty-to-100-foot trenches dug around the landfill have becomes full of water. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out that the landfill is full of water. It’s not so much trash with some water in it as water with some trash. It’s an earthen dam acting as a trash-water aquifer.”

Tajiguas Site Supervisor Dean Mahon said the proposed expansion, which stretches from the eastern to the northern sections of the landfill, is removed from the nearest major well, which stands to the west.

“Just from an operational standpoint, from working here for 20 years, I would say if we are not going in that direction, why would it affect the water supply?” he said.

The EIR stated action would be taken to minimize the impact on the groundwater.

“[Groundwater] impact will be minimized through continued implementation of ongoing procedures that include limiting the depth of excavation, maintenance and monitoring of the landfill gas and leachate collection and recovery system,” the report states.

Hazard said there are concerns that the expanded landfill would infringe upon areas inhabited by the endangered red-legged frog. The EIR recognized the threat to the frogs, stating they “could be predated by gulls and crows that are attracted to the landfill.”

At the meeting, Hazard also said he was concerned that the slope sliding and erosion would be dangerous in the event of an earthquake.

According to the EIR, an earthquake could lead to the failure of waste-fill slopes or landfill liner systems, which means there would be an overflow of trash.

Steven Johnson, speaking on behalf of the Biciu family, who own land beyond the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to the south of the landfill, said the draft EIR failed to extensively explore alternatives to the expansion. He said an out-of-county landfill could support Santa Barbara County’s needs for garbage storage for the next 200 years.

However, Assistant Project Manager Caroline Trindle said the EIR includes researched alternatives to the landfill expansion and that no reasonable alternatives were determined. She said the amount of pollution created by transporting the garbage elsewhere would offset the benefits of not expanding Tajiguas.

The expansion would cause an increase from an average of 137 trucks per day to 180 total trips to the landfill, the EIR stated. Due to this increase, the report recommends traffic regulation measures, such as signs and roadwork, to minimize traffic problems.

Public Works Integrated Waste representative Jackie Campbell and Project Manager Imelda Cragin both said public comment was valuable to those compiling the report.

“[It’s] about support or opposition,” Campbell said. “It’s about the public’s opportunity to comment. Period for comment was extended through Dec. 14 because of the extensive nature of the project.”

To comment, Santa Barbara County residents should contact the Public Works Solid Wastes and Utilities Division at 882-3600 on or before Dec. 14.