Palo Alto will start shipping more garbage to the local landfill and lift its recently imposed ban on commercial waste at the baylands facility if the City Council adopts a staff proposal tonight (Monday).
The new policies aim to fill the landfill and convert the baylands site to parkland as quickly as possible, according to a report from the Public Works Department. Matthew Raschke, a senior engineer, wrote in the report that staff expects to fill the landfill by the end of 2011 if the new measures are adopted.
The proposal marks a reversal of course for the city, which last year instituted a ban on commercial waste at the landfill. The council wanted to set aside a portion of the landfill while it determines whether the city should build an anaerobic digestion facility at this site.
The city is conducing a feasibility study to determine if an anaerobic digestion facility would be suitable for the site, which is currently slated to revert to parkland when the landfill closes. The landfill also houses Palo Alto's composting operation and unless the city builds another composting facility, local yard trimmings would have to be shipped to Gilroy.
A coalition of environmentalists, led by Bob Wenzlau and former Mayor Peter Drekmeier, has been lobbying the city to keep composting local and to build an anaerobic digestion plant, which would process local yard trimmings, food waste and sewage sludge and convert it to electricity. A citizen task force last year recommended anaerobic digestion as the most promising technology for composting.
Another coalition of environmentalists, led by former Councilwoman Emily Rezel, has been calling for the Byxbee Park site to revert to parkland once the landfill closes. This group argues that putting a waste-processing facility on the baylands site would betray the city's earlier promise to its residents.
Neither side has opposed staff's new proposal to quickly fill the landfill. That's because staff has initially thought that filling the landfill site with trash would make it more expensive to later use this site for a new anaerobic digestion facility. After crunching the numbers, staff concluded that it actually costs more to ban commercial waste and determined that lifting the ban and quickly filling the site would not have any major impacts on the anaerobic digestion project.
"It doesn't make a material difference on your ultimate decision on whether to go forward with the anaerobic digestion facility," Phil Bobel, acting assistant director for engineering, told the Finance Committee at the Oct. 19 meeting.
The site is "already nearly filled with garbage that would need to be excavated and relocated to provide a level pad for the facility," Raschke's report states. "Staff anticipates that the fast-fill option would not have a major impact on the amount of waste that would need to be moved if Palo Alto elects to move ahead with a new AD facility."
The Finance Committee voted unanimously in October to recommend adopting the "fast fill" option.
The new policies would add $389,648 to Palo Alto's badly depleted refuse fund. The fund would still have a deficit of about $5.1 million, largely because of the cost of closing the landfill.
In addition to lifting the ban on commercial waste, Palo Alto would also ship more of its curbside waste to the landfill. This would speed up the process of filling the landfill and reduce some of the cost of sending local curbside garbage to the SMaRT Station in Sunnyvale.
The council is scheduled to meet at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave. (View the agenda)