Thursday, March 10, 2016

Case Study: Puente Hills Landfill, Los Angeles County, California

In 1957, a location in the charming Puente Hills of Los Angeles County was chosen to be converted into a landfill to fulfill the waste disposal needs of the ever growing metropolis. In 2013, after more than five decades of use, the Puente Hills Landfill was finally shut down. At the time of its closure, the Puente Hills Landfill had become a 500 feet tall monstrous mound covering over 700 acres of land; it is the largest landfill in the United States.

Today, Los Angeles County has an ambitious plan to convert the former landfill into a recreational park. Boasting fantastic views of the Santa Monica mountain range and the imposing Los Angeles skyline to the west and surrounded by hills and nature preserves to the east, the site would make an excellent park post-closure. The county hopes to restore the site as a habitat for various wildlife to increase biodiversity in the hills.

However, the restoration of the site is not without its challenges. The majority of the landfill has yet to fully decompose and stabilize. This means that many areas of the park will continue to sink, halting plans of restoration. In addition, flammable methane gas is still being released, posing safety and health risks. The county plans to take a multi-tiered approach to the restoration project by reclaiming older and more stable areas of the landfill while monitoring other areas. The site will not be fully restored until the end of the century. In the meantime, Los Angeles County touts the Puente Hills Landfill as a sort of reverse ecotourism spot, educating tourists about sustainability and the consequences of excessive consumerism.

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