Stop using us as your dump, Hollister residents tell Santa Clara County

HOLLISTER, Calif. (KRON) — Some Hollister residents want Santa Clara County to stop using San Benito County as its dump.

A total of 80% of trash dumped on John Smith Road Landfill in Hollister is hauled in from Santa Clara County. Only 20% of waste comes from within San Benito County, according to county spokesman David Westrick.

The landfill is owned by San Benito County and operated by Waste Connections, a private waste company.

There are plans to expand the landfill on the horizon.

County supervisors are considering one plan pitched by Waste Connection that would increase the size of John Smith Landfill to be more than four times larger, receive twice as much trash per day, and extend the lifetime of the dump by 50 to 100 years.

“We need better solutions than just becoming a mega-dump,” said Hollister resident  Anastasia Piellusch.

“Once the trash is here, it’s always here and now San Benito County is just a trash dump. This is beautiful land and a beautiful area,” Piellusch said.

Hollister is a small city known for its rambunctious motorcycle rallies and sprawling ranch lands.

Residents are concerned that its reputation will start to stink, like Milpitas or Gilroy.

Neighboring Gilroy is used to stinking from fields of garlic.

Milpitas has had an unpleasant odor for more than a decade, and the source of the stink is a mystery.

The Milpitas City Council has an investigation underway trying to pinpoint whether the unpleasant aroma is coming from the San Jose-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility, the Zanker Recycling plant, or the Newby Island Landfill.

“We need better solutions than just becoming a mega-dump,” said Hollister resident Anastasia Piellusch.

The John Smith Road Landfill currently accepts about 1,000 tons of garbage a day.

Westrick said the landfill benefits local residents because it’s a revenue source for funding public works projects, such as road repairs.

“Our county is really funded through property taxes. We don’t have a lot of sales tax. So some of those projects that we need to get done with roads and other infrastructure improvements can be funded through (revenue sources) like the landfill,” Westrick said.

A grassroots campaign, Don’t Dump on San Benito, says other counties haul trash to San Benito County because the landfill’s rates are so cheap.

“It’s because of the price. Other dumps are closer. It’s mostly Santa Clara that’s dumping here and there are other ones on the way. We simply need to have rates that are comparable to everyone else. That’s a better solution than just being low cost for out-of-county, and having other people constantly bringing their trash here,” Piellusch said.

Tom Armbruster said the expansion plan would bring the landfill to within a mile of his house. He said the plan is short-sighted and doesn’t consider future generations living in Hollister.

“It’s not just about being in our backyard. Which is it. But 50 to 100 years from now I’m not going to be here. But somebody else will be,” Armbruster said.

Waste Connections’ proposed project includes a 388-acre expansion of its existing 95.16-acre site.

Don’t Dump on San Benito supporters say more garbage trucks driving into town will increase traffic and wear down roads that are already in need of repairs.¬†

Groundwater contamination and air quality are also concerns among locals.

Westrick said all potential negative impacts will be carefully considered in an Environmental Impact Report, and the public will have a chance to weigh in.

The EIR will take 14 months to be completed before it is reviewed and approved by the county’s planning commission and board of supervisors.

The public is invited to provide input regarding the proposed project and potential environmental issues. 

Comments can be submitted to:

San Benito County Planning and Land Use Division
2301 Technology Parkway
Hollister, CA 95023-9174
Attention: Stan Ketchum