January 27, 2022
When you think of the Prima Deshecha Landfill, what comes to mind? How about 4,000 tons of trash a day? Methane seeping up through the ground? “Chemicals” being pumped into the air to mask the stink of the dump?
Unfortunately, that is the reality we observed when we toured the Prima Deshecha Landfill to understand the operations there for ourselves. The tour was conducted by three operatives working at the landfill, including Farrokh Shoaei, a civil engineer with a Ph.D. who is in charge of South Regional Landfill Operations. The two hour tour consisted of nine stops that all focused on different areas of the landfill, which was built in 1976.
The Prima site is one of three operating landfills associated with OC Waste & Recycling and the other two centers are in Huntington and Irvine. The landfill collects over 4,000 tons of waste per day and the maximum height of the trash pile is allowed to reach 4,300 feet tall—the size of 3.5 Empire State Buildings. But not to worry, once that height is reached, officials plan to expand the landfill onto the east side of La Pata (the projected start date of the second landfill is 2102).
Despite the name, the Prima Deshecha landfill does very little actual recycling. It became apparent that the only recycling being done on their part included the occasional mattress deconstruction and collecting used paint cans that are brought in by citizens themselves. Even the ‘careful’ sorting done to remove toxic materials from being buried was apparently done by a single individual observing a mountainous pile of waste. In contrast, they were very diligent about about preventing the smell of the dumb from wafting to the surrounding buildings.
“Think of ‘Febreze’” one of the tour guides told us as we watched a chemical mist being pumped into the air. According to them, it is intended to cover the reek of methane seeping from the ground. Considering it smelled like the dump would erupt if a match were struck, a masking agent is likely warranted. This combined with meticulously placed shrubs and trees to distract from the piles of trash paint a pretty picture.
If you can’t see or smell it, it doesn’t exist right?
Well, the cancer and the myriad of other health impairments that can occur due to prolonged exposure to a dump certainly beg to differ.
Landfill sites should be a minimum of 500 meters (0.31 miles) from an inhabited area if not much more to ensure safety. From reproductive anomalies to respiratory illnesses, the grocery list of potential health issues go on and on. So naturally, this makes it an excellent location for San Juan Hills High School and hundreds of million-dollar residential homes. Sitting at a mere 315 meters (0.2 miles) away, the Desi Grocio residential homes are far from the recommended safe distance.
I wonder if the realtors who sold these homes to families made sure to include the bargain of free lung cancer along with an excellent view?