Campo Kumeyaay Nation

March 14, 2010


A Campo Landfill / Latest Effort Deserves a Thorough Look

SUNDAY, MARCH 14, 2010 AT 12:04 A.M.

We’ve lost count – is this the fourth effort since the 1980s by the Campo Indian band to build a landfill on its East County reservation?

This is a tribe that needs jobs for its 320 members, that needs a source of revenue to provide a better standard of living. It has patiently offered proposal after proposal for economic activity, only to have the same handful of residents along state Route 94 become incensed.

Whether this is the third or the fourth try, we believe it is the tribe’s best. Three decades of advances have elapsed in the technology. The tribe has made many compromises, including leaving related recycling – and 35 jobs – to sites elsewhere and substituting trucks for a trash train that residents opposed.

As tribal Chairwoman Monique LaChappa put it, “Our groundwater protection processes are better, our monitoring and environmental‐management practices have become even stronger and we have new landfill technologies we did not have then.”

The site, entirely on tribal land with a mile buffer in any direction, is where the eastern edge of mountains blends into desert floor. The area’s only water source is wells punched into the aquifer.

That’s a valid issue, and one deserving of careful study. This is tribal land and the tribe itself is solely responsible for commissioning the environmental analysis and participating in an approval process that excludes the county. Yet, imagine what could be different this time with a what’s-best-for-everyone approach instead of an automatic Hatfields-and-McCoys relationship. Imagine an effort where nontribal members are given a voice at the table.

This is a region running out of landfill space while every proposed location is greeted by vitriolic opposition. We can almost hear the Backcountry Against Dumps firing up its e‐mail blaster. Well no, what is being proposed here is not a dump. Perhaps it would be enlightening for the handful of members to actually visit a landfill. A modern landfill is an engineering marvel. Clay, fiber and plastic liners are laid on the bottom. Water runoff pipes and methane monitoring tubes are installed. At any single moment, there is very little uncovered working area.

This region has made great strides in recycling. Yet, to think that 3.2 million people can exist without producing trash is to ignore thousands of years of human history.

Careful analysis may identify some aspect of the tribe’s proposal that cannot be mitigated.

If so, we’ll know more than we do now.

This time around, we believe a collaborative effort to rationally study the project would be in everyone’s best interest, even the not-so-nearby neighbors quickly earning a “say no to everything” label.


© 2010 Union Tribune