By City News Service
The largest landfill in the country -- a 700-acre, 450-foot high mountain of trash visible from the Pomona (60) Freeway -- is set to close Thursday.
"We don't need to make mountains out of waste anymore," Patricia Castellanos, director of Don't Waste LA, a coalition advocating for zero waste.
Solid Waste technology come a long way in the decades since the Puente Hills landfill opened in 1957 as the San Gabriel Valley Dump. It was bought by the county in 1970.
"The closure ends an era of cost-effective and environmentally sound landfilling operations at the facility, which has been a model for landfills across the country," said Grace Robinson Chan, chief engineer and general manager for the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County.
Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino -- he sits on the board of the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County that runs the landfill -- said practices had been developed to cut down on solid waste.
"Now it's time to move towards a better system that maximizes recycling and diverts waste away from landfills altogether," he said.
Residents in single-family homes already recycle 70 percent of waste, he said.
"We have the technology and ability to redesign our waste system into a recycling economy, move toward zero waste, and create jobs as we do so," Castellanos said.
The site will now be covered with earth and turned into a regional park. A recycling operation will remain, but solid waste that comes to the Puente Hills transfer station will be diverted to Orange County, according to a department spokeswoman.
Trash haulers are encouraged to use one of the county's five other facilities.
Environmentalists called the closure an important milestone.
"The methane released to the atmosphere and the toxic water leached into groundwater and streams from organic waste will impact our environment for decades, even for the best-run landfill," said George Watland of the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter.
"The closure of Puente Hills is good for our health, our economy and our pocketbooks," said Linda Escalante, a policy advocate with the Natural Resources Defense Council.