By Mark Waite
Rene Morales claimed he was being treated unfairly in his request before the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission Wednesday to open a landfill at 1811 and 1941 E. East Simkins Rd., since the county already operates an unlined landfill.
After the RPC deadlocked 3-3 on a motion to deny the application, the matter was continued until next month.
The district attorney’s office came up with five additional conditions of approval the day of the meeting that Morales said would make his project pointless.
Morales, who owns three construction companies, said the landfill would create jobs. He had numerous supporters in the audience wearing badges in support of the proposal.
The DA’s office said the conditional use permit shouldn’t be issued and the landfill not allowed to operate until after all federal, state and local permits were obtained. A solid waste permit will also be required from the county commission, the DA’s office reported.
Morales’ biggest objection was to language it would be a private landfill only, that shall not be operated as a commercial enterprise accepting solid waste for a fee, limited to solid waste generated on site and not brought to the site.
Morales said in 2008 John Shea, owner of Pahrump Valley Disposal, was authorized to open a solid waste recycling operation at 1471 E. Mesquite Ave. across from the county landfill without conditions.
Morales said if he picks up a mobile home for recycling, he can’t do it for free. He wants to reopen his Mr. Clean construction cleanup business.
Somebody has to pay for the lining and permitting for his landfill, Morales said.
“Should I build it just to look at it?” Morales asked. “I bought this property, I’m permitted for a recycling facility for asphalt and I’m supposed to do it for free? I mean you give people a license to sell cars, are they supposed to sell them for free? I’m not supposed to collect any fees? This is absurd,” Morales said.
“I have my recycling facility. I was reading in the paper the county paid to remove mobile homes, to clean up properties, nuisances. I can offer a service to pick up that mobile home for free, take it to my landfill, to my recycling facility, dismantle it, sell the recyclables and dispose of the excess material on site. That will generate jobs, that will help the community,” he said.
Planner Steve Osborne said Morales would have to get a solid waste permit from the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection as well as a county solid waste permit, in addition to the conditional use permit from the RPC.
“The application was vague and seemed to describe only industrial waste would be associated with the waste that would be put into the landfill,” Osborne said.
The site plan mentions an A-1 class landfill, which doesn’t exist, he said; there is a Class 1 landfill that allows accepting more than 20 tons of waste of sludge and household waste, while only a Class III landfill would be required. The application indicated Morales was only going to have construction-demolition type debris.
“The DA’s office is concerned there’s not enough information provided by the applicant as to what exactly is going to go into the landfill and where the solid waste is coming from,” Osborne said.
Morales said he wouldn’t be picking up household trash, for which Pahrump Valley Disposal has the franchise agreement, thus the term “private landfill.”
RPC member Robert “Bob” King said he saw a big hole in the ground and is aware Morales wants to put in excess materials that can’t be recycled. But he was worried it could open the door to accepting any trash.
“Conceivably you could contract with Las Vegas to have them bring their trash out here. You could contract with a diaper service to have them bring their nasty diapers out here, throw them in the trash where they can’t do that in Clark County without a license. What are the limitations?” King asked. He said approval could lead the way to “a conga line of trash trucks coming out from Las Vegas.”
Hugh Walker, Morales’ engineer, said if the county is concerned about importing trash they could put a limit on the number of tons.
“I know of no specific landfills that have these kind of restrictions on it,” Walker said. “If you say you can’t arbitrarily do this it seems to me that’s an unfair business practice. The Nye County landfill is not even a lined landfill so basically we’re providing a design that is going to be more environmentally sound, that’s going to be more environmentally responsible.”
RPC member Greg Hafen II noted the board already approved a conditional use permit for Morales’ concrete/asphalt plant and a waiver allowing it 1,000 feet from a residential property line.
“Where you live would you like a landfill directly behind your lot, your house?” Hafen asked.
Morales said those are half-acre unbuildable lots, but Hafen said “any lot is buildable.”
Morales said, “It makes no sense to spend $1 million on a liner if I’m not going to make a profit.”
Numerous witnesses testified to Morales’ character. Pahrump Town Board member Harley Kulkin said he’s doing the county a service cleaning up trash. Tom Oganesoff, owner of Topsoil Etc., who said he had 35 years experience in the landfill business, said it was a good location, and George Romero, owner of Romero’s Restaurant felt state and federal regulations will supersede the CUP. Robert Cameron, a property owner at the nearby Calvada Aeropark, said there aren’t any concerns with flying.
But Terry Capron, representing Desert Utilities Inc., opposed the project.
“Due to the close proximity of the landfill to our primary well located at 931 E. Ferris, which supplies drinking water to all of our customers, Desert Utilities opposes this landfill. We recognize the potential of hazardous material leaching into the ground and despite regulatory measures such as lining, it doesn’t not guarantee materials could not leach into the ground water and potentially compromise the quality of the drinking water and potentially compromise our customers and put them at risk,” he said.
Walker said federal regulations require a groundwater monitoring network will have to be installed.
Hafen asked if Morales was aware how much it costs to close a landfill.
“Everybody sitting here has a $30 parcel fee,” he said. “I understand to close the Nye County landfill is going to cost in excess of $10 million. I’m very concerned that is a very large burden for the small facility you said this will be and I want to be sure the county is protected with a guarantee these assurances will be in place.”
RPC member Joe Goode Sr. said there’s already a big hole in the ground on Morales’ property.
“You can’t tell them now to just leave the holes there or fill it up with dirt. It’s an existing condition that can be very useful,” he said.