VISTA, Calif. (CN) – Environmental groups and the Pala tribe say a planned San Diego County dump threatens the drinking water supply for thousands of people.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Pala Band of Mission Indians, Riverwatch and the Sierra Club sued the county and Gregory Canyon Ltd. over the proposed Gregory Canyon landfill.
The complaint in San Diego County Court challenges the analysis of water supply, mitigation of environmental impacts and greenhouse gas emissions.
Gregory Canyon Ltd. wants to build the 183-acre landfill in a canyon on property it owns in Northern San Diego County. The San Luis Rey River flows across the site. The dump would be next to Gregory Mountain, a site sacred to the Pala Band, whose reservation lies next to the proposed dump.
The area includes live oak woodland and coastal sage scrub, which provides habitat to several threatened and endangered species. Fights over the proposed landfill have been waged for years.
After failed attempts to approve the project in the 1980s and early 90s, San Diego County voters in 1994 passed a ballot proposition that streamlined approval for the dump.
But the project has changed too much since being proposed, the plaintiffs say, making it a new project that needs a new environmental impact study.
They claim that changing from using reclaimed wastewater to groundwater was not adequately scrutinized, nor were changes to drainage designs, which could result in groundwater pollution.
The county’s environmental department claims the design features exceed minimum standards and should protect water, but says the (nonparty) Regional Water Quality Control Board has ultimate responsibility for regulating the landfill’s effects on groundwater and surface water. The board has yet to approve the project.
An environmental impact report required by state law has been in and out of court several times.
In this lawsuit, the groups seek negation of a permit the environmental department approved last month – the local court had declared a previous permit invalid.
Lead counsel is Walter Rusinek with Procopio Cory Hargreaves & Savitch in San Diego.