The Air We Breathe: Milpitas City Council Candidates Get Candid about The Odor Problem (3 of 6)

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The odor from the landfills is still a big problem for citizens. How will you address? 

 

Timothy Alcorn

Timothy Alcorn: With the odor, of course the landfill is outside city limits. The landfill isn’t going anywhere. Their permit expires I think in 2041. There’s no real dealing with the actual landfill but we have a border almost right next to the landfill and there’s a lot of technology out there these days. And I’ve heard some people talking about how there’s a certain type of tech that we can get; it’s kind of like a giant air purifier, something we put on the border to help kind of absorb, in a sense, the smell that is coming from the landfill. And a lot of the smell comes from them chemically treating the garbage to help make it break down faster. When the heat is pounding down on the landfill and they’re doing the chemical treatment and it’s windy…all that smell…it’s like the perfect storm. All that smell just comes straight into Milpitas. Working with them on a schedule to where they don’t chemically treat when the wind is blowing so hard…so the smell just kind of stays there instead of traveling with the wind. That’s two things off the top of my head, but they’re two things that are actually possible in the near future.

 

Garry BarbadilloGarry Barbadillo: The problem of odor can be attacked in several angles, as I said in the past; we did challenge through the San Jose permits process to expand. We will continue to do that. We have initiated a formal claim to discontinue and to make sure others are there; we will continue to do that. We’ll continue to rally the community because I believe the community has a greater voice than the procedural processes on how we can address the odor issue. And we’ll continue to bang on our legislators’ doors to provide us with a law or measure that will give regulating agencies that have jurisdiction over the dump more teeth and power to control them. Hopefully with all this collective effort we will continue; we will have more positive results in the near future. But it’s an uphill battle. We will not tire doing our thing to make sure we enjoy good quality air.

 

 

Karina DominguezKarina Dominguez: The odor has been something I have worked on in my capacity as a staffer with Assemblymember Kansen Chu and Senator Bob Wieckowski. The odor has affected me. I’ve lived here for over 18 years. I’ve seen it get worse. I kind of know when it comes with the air. I live off of Abbott, so in the late evening, especially in the hot weather, I definitely can smell it. The odor has been an issue since we moved to Milpitas. My parents remember that they used to think it came from Alviso when they first arrived. They used to pick the apricot farms here in Milpitas a long time ago, and said the odor has always been there. Personally I think the odor is a huge issue and is one of my top three priorities.
We need to find a way to mitigate this odor. As a staffer, I’ve been to all the facilities and the marshlands plenty of times to know that I do believe there is a combination of things happening there. We have the water waste plant next to the landfill, that is right next to a natural environment…I believe we have to hold those stakeholders accountable to help our city bring solutions to this issue that has been around for a long time. I also believe as  leaders we should not promise things like that we’re going to get rid of the odor…because I think we’ve had this issue for a long time. We all know it’s not going away overnight.
With that, I believe we need to run studies to make sure where the odor is coming from, and hold those stakeholders accountable. We have to work with the City of San Jose. I personally would love to enclose that facility because if you go there, it’s open. It’s a water treatment plant and everything is open. So you can definitely smell it when you go by the facility, or if you’re on the facility.
The [environmental area] is not my specialty, but I know as  a staffer and from reading many reports, this is a perfect example where politics starts at a local level with a local issue that affects the whole people. I also know there is a sub-committee that meets and helps cities like us figure out what’s going on. So we need to bring our state legislators to the table and have those conversations of what resources are available at the state level; what legislation they can craft to help the local jurisdiction figure out this odor issue. I know Assemblymember Kansen Chu did draft something to try and help us. I also know unfortunately it didn’t move forward. Why didn’t it move forward? We need to ask ourselves that. We need to continue going to the meetings, reading the minutes from the South Bay Eco Citizens group that is giving us updates on who’s reporting the odor. We need to include the community and help them understand how to take an active role in bringing a solution to this issue. I definitely can’t say: Elect me and I will get rid of the odor. I could say that I will be a champion to eliminate the odor. But I definitely can’t do that by myself. It’s going to take a lot of stakeholders around the table to hold those accountable that are responsible for this odor happening in our city.

 

 

Marsha GrilliMarsha Grilli: I continue the work that I’ve already been doing. We’ve been working with the citizens odor group here in the city and building a relationship with them and listening to their viewpoints. They actually have data that’s been helpful to the city. I arranged a meeting last week with our city manager and staff, with Councilmember Nuñez and citizens and we sat down and we talked about what are the next steps and what do we need to do. And one other thing that we’ve found is that we need to be holding the odor producers responsible, and work with…the City of San Jose and hold them accountable. We get odor complaints that are confirmed and there is no accountability, you know, what are the next steps? And that’s looking at penalties — financial penalties — if that’s what it’s going to take, then we should be exploring those options. The city has moved forward with researching odor monitors so that we can be proactive. But I think that we’ve been taking some really positive steps and trying to resolve the issue.

 

 

 

Robert MariniRobert Marini: That’s a tougher question to answer. That’s a tougher question to answer because we have no control over Newby Island there. That’s controlled by San Jose. The only thing I can think that the city can do, and they’ve already done it in the past, is sue the City of San Jose. But the problem is garbage; it’s still obviously open and they increased the height of the garbage there. So that’s a tough battle when you have no control over the resource. We don’t have control over it. So the only thing I can think of is maybe an APA environmental protection that can give us more clarity as to where the smell is coming from. Maybe we should investigate doing more in that area and then we probably have another lawsuit based on that. That’s my answer.

 

 

 

Carmen MontanoCarmen Montano: I’ve lived here since 1964, and we’ve always had that odor issue. It comes and goes. I will tell you that it’s more frequent now because the landfill also operates a composting facility…20 – 25 acres, I believe, and ever since they opened that composting facility that’s when the odor started becoming more frequent. My personal belief is that most of that odor is coming from the compost; if you know the smell of decomposing plants, trees or wood, you’ll know the smell. But someone who doesn’t know what that smells like, they’ll just think it’s some terrible smell. But it really is the composting facility. That’s one of the reasons why I had voted to keep Republic Services, because that way we could have some leverage and negotiate, and maybe they would move that composting facility to another site. But that didn’t go, as you know. There are four sources: the composting, landfill, the bay and the sewer treatment plant. There are four sources where that smell could come from. But, in my opinion, the major source is the composting facility. It’s a problem but I don’t think it’s like a major problem. There are bigger problems than the odor issue, and if I was on the Council, I would try to work with Republic to see if they could move that composting facility to another site.

 

 

Van Lan TruongVan Lan Truong: Two things: The personal and the reality. Personally, I want clean air. The Newby Landfill really belongs to San Jose. So the most we can do about it is try to see whether they can regulate the odor. It’s very unhealthy, and can affect our health. We need to look at the regulations and the contract every year. Unfortunately the current contract is so long. But it’s not a direct problem that we have power over.
But we have a voice. It is something that bothers so many residents. Unfortunately it is not something we have control over. But we have a voice and we can say that they need to monitor the trash that they’re going to dump, and ask if they can do more. But it’s something I want to do because it affects all of us. Everybody loves clean air. Personally I believe in climate change. In Vietnam, for centuries, we learned in school that whatever we do affects our land, our air, and any little thing that lives with us, like trees and animals. We have to protect all of this for the next generation.

 

 

Suraj Sun ViswanathanSuraj “Sun” Viswanathan:  The issue is caused by seven major causes. The water treatment plant is one of the main issues. The second one is the landfill. We know the landfill has stopped, but I am hearing that proper disposable techniques can be used, like not just dumping everything in one place; maybe sorting it and sending it to get recycled indoors. The third one is the sulfur that gets dumped at the end of the bay, I think. That also causes the smell and I think that is because of the problem you see on 237. There was a building structure going up. But it started sinking, so removed all the structure from there. So that’s a main issue, but that needs more planning to solve. I’ve heard about human waste disposals and I think that can be a bigger issue for smell, if they are not disposed right. So organ disposal and medical disposals that are done on that site. These are kind of off the top of my head, but there are seven causes. Actually I didn’t come up with these causes. Mayor Lily Mei [of Fremont] was kind enough to educate me on each of them. I spent a lot of time with Mayors talking about things and trying to understand why things haven’t been done and how things can be done. One of the things is they have a water facility or water treatment plant in Fremont which is totally covered. You go outside the facility, you would not even find that it’s a treatment plant. But here, if you go near the facility, you will know, because it’s open. So I think a lot of things are under our control that we can do to get rid of the problem; but we are just not focusing or putting the right effort. Because we can’t just blame everything on the landfill or everything on the garbage. It’s just part of the problem. There are other things that we can work on, united  together, with the other city officials to resolve at least some problems which are in our hands.

 

 

 

 

The Milpitas Beat
By Rhoda Shapiro, Eric Shapiro, and Francie Soito.
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