Three conservation groups filed a lawsuit Friday challenging the city of San
Diego’s decision to triple the amount of garbage that can be processed daily at the Sycamore Landfill and allow operations 24 hours a day.
The lawsuit was filed by Preserve Wild Santee, the Center for Biological Diversity and the California Chaparral Institute and follows the approval of the expansion by the San Diego City Council in September and an agreement reached with the City of Santee and the owners of the Sycamore Canyon Landfill to end an eight-year dispute and litigation over the planned expansion.
According to the conservation groups, the lawsuit is aimed at protecting people and wildlife, and encouraging a transition toward more sustainable and efficient solid-waste processing.
Left unchallenged, Sycamore Landfill’s overall disposal capacity would more than double, increasing by approximately 82 million cubic yards to 153 million cubic yards. The amount of municipal solid waste that would be allowed daily would increase from 3,965 tons per day to up to 11,450 tons per day.
The plaintiffs contend that the expanded landfill area and 24-hour operations would interfere with wildlife movement between surrounding open space areas, contribute to roadkill, and disturb animals due to night lighting, noise, vibration and dust, as well as increase traffic in the area, adding to air pollution and
affecting scenic vistas from nearby Mission Trails Regional Park.
“There is an important line between providing an essential public service and operating as a public nuisance that would endanger public health and the environment," said Van Collinsworth, Preserve Wild Santee’s executive director.
"The extreme nature of this massive expansion moves the Sycamore Landfill across that line,” he said.
The groups argued that the expansion would affect sensitive plant and wildlife species including nearly 20 acres that are part of San Diego’s Multiple Habitat Planning Area that includes coastal sage scrub.
“The change from a large landfill to a gigantic industrial facility operating 24 hours a day will have devastating consequences for wildlife and rare plant communities,” said John Buse, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.
“These effects could and should have been avoided, but the city, which receives fees from waste processed at Sycamore Landfill, chose to maximize the intake of garbage at the expense of the environment,” he said.
This post was adapted from a press release submitted by the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.