The Cummings Road Landfill is located at the end of Cummings Road, approximately two miles southwest of Eureka, California. This certified closed landfill contains roughly 1,450,000 cubic yards of municipal refuse, industrial waste (mostly from paper and lumber mills), and minor amounts of nonfriable asbestos. The last load of municipal refuse was received on June 16, 2000. The Landfill continued to receive minor amounts of inert soil and non-friable asbestos until June 30, 2005.
Between 1933 and 1969 the Cummings Road waste disposal site was privately operated as an open-burning sidecast dump, which was the best practice at the time for disposing of municipal waste. Material was brought to the ridge along the end of Cummings Road, dumped, and open burned in a “continuous burn” environment where new material was placed on an existing fire and ash from material already consumed was pushed down both sides of the ridge slope. In 1969 open burning ceased and the portion of the site on the northeast side of the ridge was converted into a sanitary landfill. The sanitary landfill was permitted and converted to an unlined cut and cover canyon landfill in a deep gully below (northeast of) a portion of the burn dump that became the Cummings Road Landfill (Landfill).
The Landfill operated from 1972 until 2000, receiving municipal waste from north coast communities. The Landfill and the Hawthorne Street Transfer Station were originally owned by City Garbage of Eureka, and later purchased by NorCal Garbage, Inc. in 1975.
The Authority acquired the 33-acre Landfill and the Hawthorne Street Transfer Station from NorCal Garbage, Inc. (now known as Recology) in 2000, along with a trust fund account to pay for costs associated with the closure of the Landfill. The Authority initiated activities to close the Landfill in 2001.
Following development and approval of:
- A Final Closure/Post-closure Maintenance Plan (FCPCMP); and
- Submittal of a more rigorous “Joint Technical Document (JTD) due to complicated groundwater and geologic conditions at the Landfill,
- The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board deemed the JTD complete on November 5, 2011. This approval gave HWMA the approval to proceed with closure during the Summer of 2012.
- On March 8, 2012 the HWMA Board approved a two-step phased approach to enable placement of the debris from the adjacent burn ash debris site within the lined portion of the Landfill. Phase 1 (21.5 acres) was completed in the Summer of 2012, with the Authority expecting the approval of the NCRWQCB’s Waste Discharge Requirements in November of 2012. Phase 2 (10.5 acres) was initially scheduled for the Summer of 2013.
- The NCRWQCB informally requested additional modifications to the JTD to include the two-step closure process and provide additional background information to support NCRWQCB preparation of updated Waste Discharge Requirements (WDR) for the landfill. The JTD revisions were provided to the NCRWQCB in October of 2012.
- On April 27, 2013, the NCRWQCB’s Executive Director issued a Clean Up and Abatement Order naming both HWMA and Recology-Humboldt as responsible parties for the Cummings Road Burn Ash Site, along with a 18-month compliance schedule. The burn ash debris of concern was located adjacent to, but not within, the permitted landfill footprint.
Previously, the Humboldt County Local Enforcement Agency determined in October 1999 that the site posed no regulatory concern, and no follow up investigation or further action was required. During the Winter of 2005/06, heavy precipitation resulted in a landslide release of material and exposed the burn ash debris. The site was then re-examined by the NCRWQCB, and Recology and HWMA both undertook individual site characterizations of materials on their respective properties. Preliminary estimates indicated approximately 60,000 cubic yards of burn ash debris covered an area of 6.2 acres, and straddled two parcels. Neither Recology nor HWMA were responsible for any open-air burning activities or practices; as property owners, however, both parties were responsible for addressing the site conditions.
During the summer of 2014, approximately 91,000 cubic yards of burn ash debris was excavated and relocated into the Phase 2 area within the landfill, and construction activities were completed in October 2014. The Final Compliance Demonstration Report was submitted to the NCRWQCB on December 31, 2014.
- The NCRWQCB revised the Waste Discharge Requirements (WDR) for the Landfill to reflect the methods of closure and required monitoring activities which was approved May 2, 2013. The WDR contained a condition to allow excavated burn ash debris to be disposed within the Landfill Phase 2 area. This provision saved the Authority and ultimately garbage rate payers over $7.5 million in avoided transportation and disposal costs by allowing the burn ash debris to be placed into the landfill instead of being transported to an out of county landfill.
- With the completion of Phase 1 Closure and the Burn ash Debris Clean Up, the Authority undertook Final Closure of the Phase 2 portion of the Landfill in the Summer of 2015.
Since 2002, the HWMA has been attempting to obtain approval of a Final Closure Plan Necessary documents and plans were submitted to the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, Humboldt County Local Enforcement Agency (Humboldt County LEA) and CalRecycle for ‘Closure Certification’. The three regulatory entities reviewed, documents were revised as requested and certification was approved in mid-February 2017.
Additionally, the Humboldt County LEA issued a “Solid Waste Facility Closure Permit” for the Cummings Road Landfill on February 6, 2017. The next Permit Review Date for this facility is due February 6, 2022.