Friday, October 19 , 2018, 8:16 pm | Fair 75º


Tajiguas Landfill Resource-Recovery Project Advanced by Santa Barbara Supervisors

Project aims to extend life of landfill, but faces questions from local groups

Santa Barbara County’s proposal to build a materials-recovery facility at the Tajiguas Landfill — turning refuse into compost and energy — took a step forward Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors meeting.
Santa Barbara County’s proposal to build a materials-recovery facility at the Tajiguas Landfill — turning refuse into compost and energy — took a step forward Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors meeting. (Noozhawk file photo)

Santa Barbara County moved one step closer to finalizing a contract to design, build and operate the complicated Resource Recovery Project at the Tajiguas Landfill on Tuesday by agreeing to a “non-binding” framework with the proposed vendor.

The county Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the framework for the waste service agreement with MSB Investors, LLC, formerly Mustang Renewable Power Ventures, and OK’d more funding to HF and H Consulting to help prepare that agreement.

The project aims to extend the life of the Tajiguas Landfill, which is located in a canyon along the Gaviota Coast, by 20 years.

It involves diverting additional refuse through a materials recovery facility — to snag additional recyclables out of the solid waste – and a dry fermentation anaerobic digestion facility to process organic material such as food waste, some which will be converted to bio-gas or compost.

The county already diverts about 70 percent of trash from the landfill, and this project will address that final 30-or-so percent.

Later this year, the board is expected to certify the final environmental impact report, choose a public financing option to build the project, and approve the contract to design, build and operate the facility.

Going with public financing should reduce the cost of the project, said Leslie Wells, resource recovery and waste management manager for the Public Works Department.

The county is expecting to charge higher tipping fees of $105 per ton, which will be a $5 increase to ratepayers, she said. The vendor will receive $5.60 per ton, which is low since operational costs will be offset by selling recyclables and energy produced by the facility, Wells said.

The Gaviota Coast Conservancy and Community Environmental Council have expressed concerns about the public financing and the possibility of building outdated facilities since regulations and technology are quickly changing.

Phil McKenna with the GCC said the project has been over budget from the start, priced at over $100 million, and the county is taking on financial risk by shifting to public financing.

In a letter representing the GCC, attorney Marc Chytilo told the Board of Supervisors that the group understands the project goals, but “has serious concerns about seeking public funds for a project that is financially, technologically and environmentally risky.”

There are concerns the resulting compost won’t be high-enough quality to use for agriculture, and an aerobic composting process – instead of anaerobic digestion – would be cheaper and able to be used for local farms and ranch land, he wrote.

Community Environmental Council leaders also have written to the county with concerns.

“The project as it stands now may cost much more than it should, relies on technology that will be outdated soon after built, and transfers the financial risk from the private sector to taxpayers, thus creating significant risks for the county’s (and cities’) finances and reputation,” the CEC wrote. 

The resource recovery project is expected to be back at the Board of Supervisors sometime in July.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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