LAS VEGAS, Nevada, August 8, 2008 (ENS) - The operator of a closed landfill near Las Vegas that has been leaking contaminants into the lake that provides drinking water to Las Vegas, Phoenix and southern California has agreed to construct and operate a $36 million remedy for the site and to pay a $1 million civil fine.
Republic Services of Southern Nevada is the current operator of the Sunrise Mountain Landfill, an unlined 440-acre closed municipal solid waste landfill located three miles outside the Las Vegas city limits.
It contains over 49 million cubic yards of municipal solid waste, medical waste, sewage sludge, asbestos, construction waste and soil contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons.
The landfill cover failed during a series of storms in September 1998, sending waste into the Las Vegas Wash, which discharges directly into Lake Mead.
In a consent decree, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, Republic Services agreed to implement extensive stormwater controls, an armored engineered cover, methane gas collection, groundwater monitoring, and long-term operation and maintenance, the Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today.
"Today's settlement will minimize the risk to Clark County residents from polluted water runoff and hazardous waste discharges from the Sunrise Mountain landfill," said Ronald Tenpas, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.
"This settlement reflects the federal government's commitment to protecting valuable natural resources like Lake Mead and its watershed," Tenpas said.
The remedy, which is expected to take roughly two years to build, will be designed to withstand a 200 year storm and is expected to cost over $36 million.
Upon completion, the remedy is estimated to prevent the release of over 14 million pounds of contaminants annually, including stormwater pollutants, methane gas and landfill leachate.
The landfill was operated on behalf of Clark County by entities related to Republic Services of Southern Nevada from the 1950s through 1993. Its parent company, the publicly traded Republic Services, Inc., is the third largest waste collection and management company in the United States.
Following the landfill cover failure in 1998, the EPA ordered Republic Dumpco, a company related to Republic Services of Southern Nevada, and the Clark County Public Works Department to correct violations of the federal clean water laws and to immediately stabilize the site.
"Landfill operators must ensure that effective safeguards are in place to protect the environment and nearby communities," Wayne Nastri, administrator of the EPA's Pacific Southwest region said Thursday from his office in San Francisco. "With today's agreement, Republic is required to properly close the landfill and ensure long-term waste containment."
The proposed consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.
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