Anyone who drives on Freeway I-880 through Milpitas is frequently assaulted by foul odors that vary in intensity with the time of day, wind and humidity. But Milpitas residents face these smells every day in and around their homes and schools, and when they go about their daily errands.
The source of the unpleasant smells is the Newby Island Landfill operated by Republic Services. The winds blowing through the Golden Gate move in a southeasterly direction over the Tri-Cities Landfill, then the larger Newby Island Landfill, and finally through central Milpitas.
On Sunday morning, September 18, some 200 Milpitas residents said, ÒEnough is enough,Ó and ÒDump the dump.Ó They marched along Dixon Landing Road from Milpitas Boulevard to the entrance of the Newby Island Landfill.
While Milpitas residents have been upset with the foul odors for decades, they had become particularly alarmed by Republic ServicesÕ proposal to extend the lifetime of the landfill and composting facility from 2025 to 2041 by raising the height limit from 150 feet to 245 feet. The City of Milpitas has appealed to the San Jose Planning Commission to reconsider the planned expansion. Newby Island lies within San Jose city limits.
Milpitas residents, many of whom had never before engaged in a protest march, had been pressuring the Milpitas City Council to take action in an attempt to block the landfill expansion.
The Newby Island Landfill, operated by Republic Services, is currently reaching its maximum capacity, but unlike more than 44 landfill operations around the San Francisco Bay that were closed when they reached their maximum capacity, Republic is requesting approval for an expansion that would increase capacity by 15 million cubic yards. Newby Island is the largest and one of the last remaining landfills around the San Francisco Bay.
According to data from a state government organization, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, on odor complaints, Newby has received 10 public nuisance tickets, 17 notices of violation, and over 7,000 odor complaints in two years. Because of the push from SVFBC (Silicon Valley Foundation for Better Community), San Francisco Water Board listed 1,4-dioxane as the new item to be tested. From test results for 2015, the SF Water Board found that groundwater contamination is already occurring and is bound to worsen. It hopes to convince the San Jose Planning Commission and City Council that new evidence of ground water contamination and an overwhelming number of odor complaints show that a new Environmental Impact Report (EIR) should be required.
Milpitas residents have complained that the landfill operations not only produce a foul smell but also pollute the air and contribute to airborne particulates with unknown health consequences. They support a new EIR, one that they expect will confirm their complaints of hazards to livelihood, health and environment. Milpitas homeowners are also distressed that the incessant odors depress the resale value of homes.
Jennifer Strohfus, Arzhang Kalbali and other Milpitas residents organizing with SVFBC have been fighting to halt the Newby Landfill expansion for almost two years.
Some protesters are demanding, ÒNo expansion, no exception.Ó Arzhang Kalbali says that SVFBC is advocating a ban on all landfills located in urban areas. Jennifer Strohfus points out that we should all be consuming less and creating less garbage, to approach zero waste.
Originally opened in the 1930s, the Newby Island Landfill was once surrounded by vacant land and open fields. Now it is rapidly becoming surrounded by urban development in Milpitas, Fremont, and San Jose.