In the 1970s, Gilda Radner of Saturday Night Live played a recurring character named Emily Litella who suffered from hearing loss. Emily appeared regularly on the "Weekend Update" portion of the show to annoyingly rebut an editorial because she misunderstood a word. (Why does Puerto Rico want to become a steak?) When she was corrected by the newscaster, she would always say "Never mind."

It's clear that some residents of Pima County misunderstand the proposed Marana modern landfill. Whether you consider yourself a supporter or an opponent, it's time to focus on the facts about the project. That opportunity will come Thursday at an open house at the Marana Town Hall, where experts in a variety of areas will be available to answer your questions and address your concerns. The open house will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and if you choose to come, I believe you'll hear some people say "Never mind."

For instance, there have been questions regarding potential leakage, in part fueled by federal requirements that we include a liner and leachate (liquid) collection system as part of the design. Note that I said "federal requirement," because there are strict regulations that apply to landfills all across the country, and they apply regardless of climate, geology or site-specific variations.

So, are we saying that the liner system will be required to prevent leaks? Actually, no. Even if there are slight flaws in the liner, there will be no significant leaks because there will be no free liquids sitting on top of the liner system. There will really be nothing to leak out.

A little history is important here. In the past, many landfills were operated as open dumps, accepting anything. Industrial chemicals and solvents, paint, cleaning solutions, used motor oil, septic tank sludge, and other solid and liquid wastes were all disposed of in an unlined landfill. As time passed, these liquids migrated into the soil and sometimes into aquifers, creating the environmental problems we have all heard about.

So in the mid-1990s, the method of landfill construction was changed dramatically and stringent rules were adopted to prevent the disposal of liquid and hazardous waste. The new technologies for handling waste include leachate collection systems, an array of monitoring wells and state-of-the-art liners that prevent seepage out of the landfill.

In many parts of the country, there is enough rainfall to create large volumes of leachate, but here in Southern Arizona the climate is too dry, even in the rainy season. Heavy precipitation will permeate a few inches, but will dry out as soon as the sun comes out. Even if small quantities of leachate form in the landfill, the leachate collection system will remove it and not allow it to sit on top of the landfill liner system. The leachate collection system also provides a means to monitor the presence of any liquids in the landfill system. Our aquifer will never be adversely affected by waste.

The Marana Modern Dry Landfill will be safe and will bring a variety of benefits to the community. These are not inconsequential. The long-term waste solution will be secured and will save residents time and money when compared to other options. The Town of Marana will receive hundreds of thousands of dollars, as will the Marana Unified School District. And benefits such as community clean-up programs and free dump days will reduce wildcat dumping in the desert.

Less immediate, but important nonetheless, is economic development. Large businesses will be less likely to locate in this part of Pima County if waste disposal is expensive or unpredictable.

Again, I invite you to come and ask your questions. You can expect straight answers and learn that today's modern landfill can be an environmentally safe community asset. And Puerto Rico does not want to become a steak.


DKL Holdings President Larry D. Henk started in the waste industry as a commercial route driver in 1984. He was chief operating officer and president of Allied Waste Industries, overseeing 355 collection companies, 65 recycling facilities and 167 active landfills. Currently he owns and operates several waste operations based in Prescott Valley, Phoenix, Nogales and Tucson.

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