Your friend Zorro has been away for a while, I miss anything? Hahahahahaa, no, I know, everything is a nightmare and the whole country is now a burning trash fire. So, allow me a moment of naval-gazing to address the orange elephant in the room. There are a lot of things happening, at the state level, at the national level, and increasingly (gulp) at the international level. With so many things to address, talk about, complain about, why even bother with a snarky internet blog about very local matters with little or no relevance beyond the borders of the City of Pittsburg (“CoP” because I am feeling it)? Don’t we have better things to do with our time? Aren’t there bigger fish to fry? Yes.
But here’s the issue, Pittsburgers: all of the things going on right now are a little overwhelming. And, the next few years are going to be very rough for us here in our little burg. We need to build a haven where we have each other’s collective backs because, as citizens, we are a community. If we stand together, we can do more than just resist the forces that might tear away at our shared values. We might even serve as actual proof that those values live on. Let’s look around us: these hills, that river – we could build a paradise of tolerance and acceptance here. If only there is the will to do it.
But, to do it, we must hold people accountable. Unscrupulous, non-resident, ‘local’ politicians and city managers, incompetent and/or corrupt city planners, grasping and greedy developers, and dirty industrialists – all of those who seek to turn our prospective paradise into a packed, polluted, cramped, congested horror show. We might envision Bedford Falls, but they are building a Pottersville. If we do not stand together, we’ll lose the opportunity for a refuge from the madness that surrounds us. And be swept away with it.
So, with that small exhortation and call to action in mind…
What the fuck is that smell?
Again, just kidding. I know what that smell is, and so do you. You get off the freeway at Bailey, or exit the BART train, and you get wind of it. It hits you like the reek of a freshman dorm room – on steroids. It is the smell of Satan puking up pork rinds and kombucha. It’s Beelzebub’s own hell-hound scarfing it down and puking it up again because it’s too gross even for a hell-hound. Ooh, that smell. It is “the rankest compound of a villainous smell that ever offended nostril.” (Thanks, Bill Shakespeare.) That is the reek that says, “Welcome to Pittsburg, no one cares about you.”
It is, of course, the Keller Canyon landfill.
Now, your friend Zorro has written about the metaphorical stench of the landfill, how it’s been used for years as a personal account by our recently re-elected County Supervisor Federal Glover to enrich his friends, family, and other supporters.
This time, however, I am talking about the metaphor made manifest. Real stink from real corruption blankets our city, Pittsburgers. And the very people who should be raising a clarion call in our defense are being enriched from the rotting garbage that attacks our olfactory sensibilities and our quality of life.
If you are one of the blessed few who do not know what I mean, let me explain. I’m talking about foul vapors and gases that emanate from the landfill evenings and weekends – the very times most of us are home seeking refuge from our working worlds. If you take BART, it hits you on the platform. If you drive along Leland, it hitches a ride with you. In fact, if you live within 5 miles of the landfill in any direction, you have to soak in it.
If the eau de fermented-herring has impacted you, you may even have Googled “Keller Canyon Landfill complaints,” and found this webpage. Maybe you followed the directions and entered a complaint with the Bay Area Air Quality Management, and the Contra Costa Environmental Health agencies, or with Keller Canyon itself.
If you have taken those steps, your faithful friend Zorro is about to blow your mind with his clairvoyance. (Places fingers to forehead) Yes, it is coming to me, here it is… you picked up the phone, you called it in, and…you got the runaround. They did precisely nothing. Tadaa! Oh, they may have complained to you about how difficult it is to do their jobs. Perhaps they offered some lame defense about the complexities of running a landfill. Maybe they sent out someone with a severe cold who did not detect any odor and your complaint went nowhere. Or, maybe they sent someone out who did detect an odor and they verified your complaint. A miracle!
But maybe you were confused about why they needed to independently confirm something so unmistakable before taking action if they were getting complaints from those who smelt it and definitely hadn’t dealt it. But, that is what they require, so you went with it and now, success! You are verified, you are not crazy, and official air people agree. So, you got a verified complaint, and yet… you got the runaround and nothing happened.
Here’s what they did not tell you: they have been getting complaints about the landfill for several years, and there’s been a huge uptick over the last three to six months. Why so stinky of late? Last year, Republic Services (the same company that so ineptly runs Keller Canyon) got hit with a cease and desist order over their landfill in Richmond. Why? Check this shit out… Turns out they accepted loads of compost waste without knowing what to do with it. You know, the basics you might expect from a landfill – how to prevent it exuding hot, stinky death into the air. So many people in Richmond complained of the smell of rotting, fermenting waste – the smell of the Prince of darkness puking up his dinner – that Republic Services had to stop taking that organic waste. Coincidentally, immediately thereafter the malodorous vapor filled Pittsburg, and local agencies began evasively fielding complaints. Republic Services had learned nothing about how to store the waste, it seems. And instead, they made it our problem.
Some people have even suggested that maybe Republic Services dumped it here as a little “screw you” message to their former besties in CoP government and Supervisor Glover, after the landfill was prevented from accepting construction waste. Although it’s speculation, the timing is deeply suspicious given that the fetid putrefaction settled in earnest when the landfill filed a lawsuit to undo the waste restrictions. But, never forget, Supervisor Glover is making money and friends from this state of putrid mordancy, regardless of whether their mutual love affair is over.
So, for all my clairvoyance, does your friend Zorro see a solution? Yes, I do. It is in numbers. As I said earlier, we have to stick together, Pittsburgers. We have to work together because no one else has an interest in helping us. We do this by showing numbers and doing this together. Every time – and I mean every time – we are hit with this smell, we have to enter complaints. Lots of them. Call Bay Area Air Quality Management – (415) 749-4900 | 1-800-HELP-AIR | 1-800-334-ODOR (6367). Call or enter an online complaint with Contra Costa Environmental Health. Call or enter an online complaint with Keller Canyon, and then let others know you did it and that they should too. Get your neighbors on board, share the information from this post, discuss it on Nextdoor (just search for “toxic,” “odor,” or “Landfill”), make some noise on the Pittsburg community page on Facebook. And, when you have done that, make a complaint with the City of Pittsburg and to Supervisor Glover’s office.
Why do we do this, Pittsburgers? We do this because we have to. Every time. The regulatory agencies will only take our valid complaints seriously if we overwhelm them every time we’re forced to breathe that deathly, toxic stench. We cannot get used to this – it’s important beyond our own health and comfort.
We have to do this because there are people who are enriching themselves from this stank.
We have to do this because Republic Services swore that we would never even know the landfill was there.
We have to do this because we were told we would never be disturbed by additional noise, traffic, or smell.
So, every gaseous bloom is a new lie, a lie that we are forced to endure. Screw that. Make the complaints. Every time they make a stink, we have to #MakeAStink.
I leave you with this final thought, Pittsburgers. Republic Services swears they do not accept the kind of organic waste that caused problems in Richmond. They say they haven’t taken in a new load of it in months. Maybe that is true. And maybe they just dumped so much of that rotting garbage here that we’re still dealing with the after-effects. But, it would not be the first time that Republic Services has lied, and unless we act and actually stop them, there would be nothing preventing them from putrefying our air, destroying our home values, and wrecking our quality of life on a regular basis.