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Move to bury landfill expansion
Farmers, pilots, environmentalists team up to fight plans
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Farmers and environmentalists along with pilots are joining forces to try and block a proposed 184-acre expansion of Forward Landfill on Austin Road north of Manteca.

Manteca farmers Jeannie and Michael LaForge founded the non-profit Clean San Joaquin to combat expansion of the landfill that has racked up numerous violations including contaminating ground water, allowing underground fires to burn for months, and operating a composing facility without a proper permit.

Pilots are worried that further expansion of the landfill would increase scavenger birds in the area posing a serious safety threat to aviation traffic at Stockton Metro Airport to the west. The landfill’s 210-foot-high mounds are clearly visible from Highway 99 to the east as you pass the airport.

The City of Manteca currently transports its garbage and green waste to the Austin Road facility. The city has long-range plans to start its own green waste composting operations to generate fertilizer for the city’s 52 parks.

Former Manteca councilman Jack Snyder who serves on the San Joaquin County’s Stockton Metro Airport Advisory Committee believes that body “definitely” should consider taking a position on the proposed landfill expansion. The Board of Supervisors, though, has yet to make such a request.

Snyder said the landfill expansion could pose problems with future expansion of the airport that is viewed by private and public sector leaders as a crucial key in strengthening the San Joaquin County economy.

The Federal Aviation Administration views landfills as incompatible with safe airport operations due to how they attract scavenger birds. Planes leaving and arriving at Stockton Metro Airport have recorded 19 bird strikes since 1990. Forward Landfill has deployed falcons in a bid to reduce the bird population.

Forward Landfill is in the process of applying for a permit from San Joaquin County to expand the landfill. The land is currently under the Williamson Act designed to protect farmland from development. The environmental impact report and request for approval will go before the Board of Supervisors in the near future.

The state website Cal Recycle notes that 72 percent of the waste processed at Forward Landfill is imported into the county primarily from the Bay Area as well as from out of state.

“As other landfills in San Joaquin County could accommodate the county’s trash for decades to come, it appears that this expansion is purely a money-making venture for Forward and its parent company,” said Jeannie La Forge. “I don’t have a problem with making money, but I do have a problem when it comes at the expense of our community’s health, safety and environment with no real benefits for the local population.”

County planning documents show Forward Landfill wants to increase its capacity by more than 100 percent to 55.1 million cubic yards. That will allow the facility to continue taking in garbage through 2039. At the current pace, the landfill will reach capacity in 2021. In both cases, that assumes 72 percent of the garbage buried there won’t originate from San Joaquin County.

“Those of us who fly out of Stockton Airport are extremely concerned about this proposed expansion,” said Rick Tutt of RJ Tutt Aviation. “The landfill already poses a significant danger to our safety. Expanding this landfill is a bad idea.”

Trevor Atkinson of the Campaign for Common Ground said, “a bigger Forward Landfill would further degrade air and water quality, and would result in an unacceptable loss of the county’s rich agricultural lands.”

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