The landfill that serves the communities of the Upper Napa Valley has reopened after it was damaged last month in the Glass Fire.
The Clover Flat Landfill sits on a little more than 100 acres in the hills between Calistoga and St. Helena, just off the famed Silverado Trail. It resumed operations Oct. 6 after a pair of inspections by state and local officials.
In the late afternoon of Sept. 27, Cal Fire ordered the site evacuated and around 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 28, fire raced through the property, according to Christy Pestoni, Clover Flat’s chief operating officer.
“The Glass complex severely damaged” the landfill, according to the initial inspection report prepared by the Napa County Environmental Health Division dated Sept. 28.
While the active landfill area, including trash, escaped damage, “(a)ll vegetation has been burned in and around the landfill, including all erosion control measures recently placed along hillsides and creeks,” according to the report, which was written by Peter Ex, the county’s solid waste program manager.
Critical repairs ahead
The report noted fire damage to the gas and leachate collection systems, the equipment maintenance building, three machines, power lines, the recycling buyback and oil collection centers and the sort line.
“Critical issues will be repairing landfill gas and leachate collection systems, and winterizing the site before the rainy season,” the report says.
The report also estimated it would take at least four to six months for the landfill to reopen, although Ex this week said that was a typo and that the actual reopening timeframe is four to six weeks.
Still, after staff from the county and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board completed a second full site inspection on Oct. 5, they gave Clover Flat the all-clear to reopen.
“While significant damage has occurred the operator has quickly mobilized to clear access roads, remove downed trees and power lines, is up and running on generator power, has successfully contained landfill gas escaping from damaged pipes, has capped damaged leachate transport pipes, has begun implementing erosion control measures on burned slopes,” according to a draft report based on that inspection.
The report also notes that while the site’s leachate — liquid runoff produced by landfills that can contaminate surface and groundwater — is being contained, the methane gas collection system was damaged.
Assessing the damage
The landfill operators hired a contractor “to assess damages, make temporary repairs, and close the gas well network to prevent surfacing landfill gas to the greatest extent possible,” according to the report.
Given these factors, the county and the regional water board allowed the landfill to open.
“(T)he fire did not damage any major components of Clover Flat and the landfill itself is unharmed,” Pestoni said in an email.
“We will be open to the public for self-haul once Cal Fire has cleared the Silverado Trail to reopen,” Pestoni said. “Otherwise we are currently disposing of waste from our vehicles and county vehicles.”
St. Helena Mayor Geoff Ellsworth said the Glass Fire highlights his concerns about the landfill’s location, which he says is inappropriate given that it is in a high fire risk area above the Napa Valley watershed.
“From all the facts and data about the landfill it seems it is time to re-consider the safety of this location with vulnerable gas lines and power lines in a remote high wind, high fire risk canyon, which is also close to fault lines,” Ellsworth, who is running for re-election, said in an email.
“Additionally, there is potential for leachate drainage into the Napa River that directly irrigates many of our Napa Valley grapes,” he said.