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County, town spar over garbage

May 18, 2012

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The smell of garbage has already come between the recent “Kumbaya” talks of cooperation and working together for the Town of Mammoth Lakes and Mono County.

The county balked Tuesday at giving its full support to the Town for a solid-waste-to-recycling facility at the Mammoth Commerce Street transfer station.

The county did agree to support the Town in asking the state to give the Town more time to comply with a new state law that requires 50 percent of all municipal solid waste to be diverted to recycling.

But when the county supervisors saw the actual letter that the Town intended to send to the state for this purpose, it became clear that for the county, the devil was in the details.

Most specifically, the devil was in a so-called Material Recovery Facility, or MRF, that the Town had previously told the state it would likely be able to break ground by July 1.

The MRF would be located on land adjacent to the existing transfer station and would allow on-site sorting of all incoming solid waste, which would then allow the 50 percent “diversion” to recycling required by the state.

As it is now, Mammoth and the county recycle far less than 50 percent, which essentially means they are in violation of state law. It’s only a matter of time before a fine or penalty is levied, Town and county officials have said. That fact makes this solid waste/recycling issue one of the larger Town and county issues (the Town of Mammoth supplies about 80 percent of all the county’s solid waste volume). 

In addition, the solid waste program is expensive, and recently, it has been either in the red, or on the verge of being in the red, due to a massive slow-down in solid waste volume as a result of the recession.

The Town’s solution, as noted in its letter to the state, would be a joint MRF on private land adjacent to the transfer station.

“I don’t think the state will listen to us if we don’t give them some concrete milestones,” said Town of Mammoth Lakes Public Works Director Ray Jarvis. “We need to move forward as quickly as we can. We are in a precarious situation between being out of compliance and offering them something specific.”

County supervisors want to take it one, slow step at a time.

The supervisors haven’t decided if a MRF is the best way to solve this problem, let alone that it will break ground by July 1, they said.

“We said last time all options are on the table,” said District 3 Supervisor Vikki Bauer. A MRF may not be the best long-term solution at all, she and other supervisors said. 

According to the supervisors, taking the solid waste to Nevada, finding another landfill site—these options and more need to fully vetted by both the Town and county.

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