Michael and Jeannie LaForge are not NIMBYs as in not in my backyard.
The LaForges are part of a family farming operation that has been on North Austin Road since the 1880s.
They have an unobstructed view of Forward Landfill’s 210-foot high mound. They know firsthand about contaminated water and uncontrolled underground fires burning for months connected with the private-sector operation. They have formed a non-profit group to try and block a proposal making its way to the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors to double the operation by adding another 184 acres.
Their most valid argument, though, is how much garbage is being buried at the landfill that does not originate from San Joaquin County. There is 2.3 tons per capita being buried there each year. That is a level surpassed only by Solano and Kings counties. That’s because - based on the state’s Cal Recycle website - 72 percent of the waste processed at Forward Landfill is imported into the county primarily from the Bay Area.
San Joaquin County has been the dumping ground for other counties’ trash - including the human variety - for too long. For years, the biggest concentration of serious juvenile offenders and women criminals in the state filled prisons immediately to the north of the landfill. Now a $900 million super state prison hospital complex is being built. Study after study has shown families of criminals incarcerated in state prisons move to be near their kin behind bars. This of course has an impact on local welfare and crime rates.
The exporting of prisoners to inland counties was slowed down a bit by a mandate that Los Angeles County - the biggest generator of convicted criminals - had to allow a state prison to be built within its jurisdiction. It is something that was resisted by LA politicians for years.
Something similar needs to be done with garbage.
Every county in this state - with the exception of San Francisco - has vacant land that can accommodate landfills. The problem is nobody wants them in their backyard. So the ruling elite - the political muscle from urban areas that constitute power in California - have been able to push landfills onto the weaker counties.
Much of the garbage going into the Austin Road landfill comes from the Bay Area that has used its clout successfully for years to avoid being required to address problems they create. Their side stepping of local solutions and failure to accept responsibility for problems they create hurt San Joaquin County and her neighbors primarily to the south.
Too much growth and not enough water in the Bay Area - that’s not a problem. Pursue solutions that drastically change the Delta and in turn devastates 40 percent of San Joaquin County’s agricultural base that is the biggest provider of countywide jobs by far.
No stomach to fight opponents of affordable housing to meet the state housing mandate? No problem, make the communities east of Altamont Pass the de facto affordable housing solution for the East Bay.
For years the Bay Area sought and obtained an exemption from tough air pollution control standards placed on employers arguing their air was clean and they shouldn’t pay the price for dirty air elsewhere such as in the Central Valley. Finally, they were forced to adopt many of the same tough standards after study and study proved at least 20 percent of the dirty air in the Northern San Joaquin Valley blows in from the East Bay through the Altamont Pass and Pacheco Pass.
The Bay Area needs to be forced to drastically cut down on its garbage by being required to bury it in their own backyard and not exporting it out of the region.
As for Forward Landfill’s request, the Board of Supervisors needs to worry about our future and whether we really benefit by expanding San Joaquin County’s role as the dumping ground for the Bay Area.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.