unedited sept tahoe mt. news
By Kathryn Reed
For the past two years the bulk of mediation discussions between the U.S. Forest Service and multiple defendants, primarily El Dorado County, has centered on transferring the old Meyers Landfill to the county.
Everyone agrees the dump site off Pioneer Trail is contaminated. How to remedy the situation, who should own the land and what it should be used for in the future come with multiple answers.
“We should have been able to resolve this case through mediation. But for mediation to succeed, you need the decision-makers in the room and with the Forest Service we don’t have the decision-makers in the room,” said Tom Bruen, special counsel representing the county and the South Lake Tahoe Basin Waste Management Authority, which includes South Lake Tahoe, and El Dorado and Douglas counties. “We are trying to change the Forest Service’s decision on the transfer. If we cannot, then we need to figure out where we go next. We have not made that determination.”
In mediation the Forest Service is represented by Department of Justice lawyers who are there to just talk about remediation at the dump site. But defendants want the land transfer to be part of the overall discussions and see the issues intertwined.
“Essentially, we aren’t pursuing anymore (discussion) of transfer of land to the county because the EPA informed us because the groundwater plume would be on U.S. Forest Service land we would retain significant oversight responsibility and cost even if the main landfill mass were transferred,” said Cheva Heck, USFS spokeswoman.
Asked why not transfer all acreage affected by the dump, Heck said the decision not to do this is because affected land has value to the federal agency.
The county could ask Congress to overrule the Forest Service. El Dorado Supervisor Norma Santiago said she has talked to people working for California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. Details of those discussions were unavailable.
The Meyers Landfill was used from 1947-71. Twenty years later the feds sued a slew of entities for cleanup costs. Vinyl chloride, a carcinogen produced when household waste breaks down, is the main contaminant under the sealed 26-acre plot, although methane and other gases pose problems. The Environmental Protection Agency has deemed it a Superfund site.