Environment & Science

LA County's largest landfill closing next year

The Puente Hills landfill.
The Puente Hills landfill.
Ruxandra Guidi/KPCC

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Los Angeles County’s largest landfill is gearing up for closure, which means that starting in 2013, an estimated 20,000 tons of trash a day will be taken to a mega-landfill in the Imperial Valley desert.

The Puente Hills landfill has been around for 70 years. From the Pomona Freeway, it looks like a couple of rolling green hills, peppered with native trees and scrubs.

But underneath those green acres are miles and miles of compacted trash, crisscrossed by a complicated system of recycling plants, wells and tubes designed to make sure that nothing contaminates the nearby groundwater or air.

L.A. County is home to seven landfills. Puente Hills is its largest, receiving approximately 6,000 to 12,000 tons of trash a day. The permit for the 1,300-acre site expires at the end of 2013.

“What will happen is we’re going to turn it over to L.A. County," says Paul Prestia, a spokesperson with the L.A. County Sanitation District. "We will still have to maintain the environmental controls, so we’ll still be monitoring it — we’ll still be checking the wells and the probes, and treating the liquids that are collected. And we’ll be doing that for 50 years, if not longer.”

While this site will become a county park, a remote area of the Southern California desert will become a new repository for thousands of tons of city trash.

The Mesquite Regional Landfill in Imperial County will become the largest landfill in the country. Operators expect it to receive up to 20,000 tons of trash a day from L.A., Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties.