California begins $7 million cleanup of former landfill

A settlement with El Dorado County, California, will ensure the beginning of the cleanup of the Meyers Landfill site, located outside of the city of South Lake Tahoe, California, according to the Justice Department and United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. The estimated cost of the clean up will be $7 million.

The agreement, lodged in United States District Court in Sacramento, resolves certain federal claims against El Dorado County for cleanup of the Meyers Landfill site. In addition, the agreement resolves certain counter-claims made by the county against the United States for cleanup of the site.

Under the settlement, El Dorado County will be responsible for consolidating the waste mass at the site and placing it under an impervious cap. The cap and associated drainage features around the cap will prevent the infiltration of precipitation and snowmelt into the landfill waste mass, thus eliminating or significantly reducing additional groundwater contamination. A landfill gas venting and monitoring system will also be installed.

The United States Forest Service is continuing to investigate groundwater contamination related to the site. Several years of study will be required after the landfill cap is constructed to determine the effect on the groundwater, and what remedy may be required to address any remaining groundwater contamination.

The Meyers Landfill site is a former municipal waste dump and is located wholly on National Forest System lands administered by the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit of the United States Forest Service.

The site was operated as a landfill from about 1946 through 1971 under a series of Forest Service special use permits that were issued to private parties and since 1955 to El Dorado County.

Between 1991 and 1994, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), likely produced by degradation of organic material within the landfill waste mass, were detected in the groundwater beneath the former landfill disposal area. In August 1996, VOCs, including vinyl chloride, were detected down gradient of the site, including in Saxon Creek, a tributary of Lake Tahoe. The Forest Service initiated a response action under the Superfund law or the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act to determine the extent and impacts of the VOC contamination, and in 2001 it filed litigation against El Dorado County and the city of South Lake Tahoe.