The recent public and political controversy concerning the Tajiguas landfill prompted the members of the Grand Jury to investigate and publish a report giving an adequate, informative and unbiased appraisal of the Tajiguas landfill as it presently exists.

This report covers the complex set of issues that must be considered in dealing with the long term handling and disposing of waste within Santa Barbara County. In particular, it was decided to concentrate on the Tajiguas landfill with regards to:


Tajiguas Landfill opened in 1967 with the intended use as a 100-year holding site and has been in continual use since then.

In 1989, the State of California passed the Integrated Waste Management Act (AB 939) establishing a State Waste Management Control Board to control all operations of waste disposal in California. These regulations include air and water quality and re-cycling of waste material. The State Regional Water Quality Control Board monitors all such waste disposal facilities for effluent from the landfills. Since then, permits to operate a landfill must be applied for and accompanied by an Environmental Impact Review (EIR).[1]

In 1998, the Board of Supervisors (BOS) initiated a 15 member Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC). The purpose of the CAC was to advise the Board on potential alternatives to the proposed landfill expansion. Essentially, the CAC recommendations were to develop a composting facility for green waste and to develop a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) at Tajiguas. The CAC Report, dated June 1998, may be viewed at the Office of the County Clerk.

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors (BOS), at its Aug. 3, 1999 meeting (Appendix A), rejected the CAC proposals and directed staff to identify another County landfill site as a long-term disposal solution. The present facility is to remain operational for 15 years or less, while a new in-county site is identified and opened. Then Tajiguas is to be closed.

The BOS at the Aug. 3rd meeting also directed the Public Works Department to initiate a sequence of two actions at the landfill. One action would be benchfilling. This is a method of increasing capacity by a horizontal and vertical stepping similar to terracing. This was approved by the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) on Nov. 12, 1999 and is now in operation. Benchfilling will increase the life of the landfill by five years. The other action initiated by the BOS on Aug. 3, 1999 involves a 15 year expansion as described later in this report.

Geography and History

The Tajiguas site is located in a canyon 26 miles west of Santa Barbara on the north side of Highway 101, close to the coastline (Figure 1) This section of the coast is unique in that it runs east west with the ocean due south. The original topography of the canyon before landfill operations was typical of the many seaside canyons in Southern California. Tajiguas is a fairly broad canyon carved by Pila Creek that flows only in the rainy season and is dry most of the year. The mouth or front of the canyon is just slightly above sea level, while the back of the canyon extends north to the national forest. To the east and adjacent to the landfill is the Baron Ranch (1,000 acres) purchased to serve as a buffer zone between the landfill and the neighbors. Directly south and across Highway 101 is the Arroyo Quemado enclave of houses overlooking the Pacific Ocean. West of the landfill is the AERA (an oil company) owned parcel. The landfill itself consists of approximately 400 acres. The entrance to the canyon is from Highway 101. Fill operations take place approximately 1/4 mile from Highway 101 and have been restricted to an area of 80 acres which are not visible from the highway.

Pila Creek is situated on the western edge of the canyon. The creek drains approximately 300 acres in the wet season. Before the landfill was put into operation, the creek emptied unimpeded into the ocean. The lower portion of the creek has been channeled into a steel culvert under the access road into the facility and now empties into a small holding pond before proceeding under the freeway and into the ocean.


Interviews were conducted with: In 1992, a 60-foot deep trench across the face of the canyon was dug in order to collect leachate from the landfill. The leachate collected in this trench is used as a dust control. Many other improvements have been made such as methane gas collection for co-generation of electricity. Collection of the gas has resulted in less contamination of the water.



The Grand Jury made several on site visits to the transfer station and the Tajiguas landfill.

Interviews were conducted with:

State and local regulations were reviewed and a video of the Aug 3, 1999 BOS meeting was reviewed.



"The Department of Public Works contracted Dr. John Gray of Woodward/Clyde (URS-Greiner) to conduct an independent study of surface water data and conditions at the Tajiguas Landfill for contamination. This was done as preparation for the revised Solid Waste Facility Permit and was presented to the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) at the Nov. 16, 1999 hearing"

A summary of his findings follows as reported to the BOS on April 10, 2000:

Mr. Mark Grivetti (Certified Engineering Geologist, Hydrologist and Registered Environmental Assessor in State of California) of Dames and Moore reported to the Regional Water Quality Control Board that the ground water at Tajiguas landfill is better managed today than at any previous point in time.

In a presentation to the BOS on April 10, 2000 Mr. Grivetti stated that Pila Creek studies showed:

The Tajiguas Landfill Groundwater Issues Focus Group (mainly composed of residents in the Arroyo Quemada area on the south side of 101) asked A. A Ph.D. Keller to conduct an independent study of the Tajiguas landfill.[2] A copy of the first paragraph of his summary to the Focus Group follows:

by Arturo A. Keller, Ph.D.
School of Environmental Science and Management
University of California, Santa Barbara
April 1998

Summary of findings

At the request of the Tajiguas Landfill Groundwater Issues Focus Group, I have reviewed the Water Quality Monitoring Plan and Financial Assurance Report (EMCON, 1992), and the most recent Annual Groundwater Monitoring Report (County of Santa Barbara, 1998). Following is a simple explanation of the situation. In my opinion, there is no need for concern with respect to the groundwater issue present at the landfill, currently or as a result of the proposed expansion of the landfill, as long as the current monitoring plan is continued, and the current Corrective Action Plan (CAP) is followed.…”


Dr. Keller goes on to say that organic pollutants have been consistently detected in the ground water in the collection trench, but at very low concentrations, and none of these pollutants represents a short term exposure risk, even if the water was ingested by sensitive individuals. He also states that "…Therefore, there is no immediate need for concern with respect to the current concentrations detected in the collection trench…."

According to an interview with the Public Works Director, all of the recommendations that were made in the report have been followed with the exception of an in-situ water treatment zone past the collection trench. This last recommendation is under study at the present time.

Interviews with people who are interested in preserving and saving the environment proved to be very enlightening. They have done a great job increasing the public awareness of the health hazards of contaminated streams, creeks and ocean. They are to be congratulated on their previous and continuing work.

The installation of sewer lines to replace the septic tanks in the Rincon creek area is one example of the excellent work that they do. The environmental groups consist of a large diverse conglomeration of various agencies, conservancies, committees etc. such as Heal the Ocean, Gaviota Coast Conservancy, Jon M. Cousteau Institute, Ocean Futures, etc. There were some environmental groups that declined to be interviewed claiming conflict of interest as they said they were suing the County.

Heal the Ocean and other groups had a viral study performed in October of 1999 by Allison Davis of USC. She tested various beaches along the Santa Barbara coastline and the report did state that Hepatitis A virus and some other intestinal viruses were found. Whether or not this was a cause of a disease process was hard to prove, since the amount of the virus and their pathogenicity (strength to cause disease) was unknown.

After reviewing the above reports, interviews were held with the Medical Director of the Santa Barbara County Health Department and the Deputy Health Officer. They provided the Grand Jury with data concerning the water borne diseases that have to be reported to the State Department of Public Health (Appendix B). Every case of any of the reportable diseases is thoroughly investigated by a Public Health Environmental Epidemiologist to determine the source and spread of the infection. The affected patient is queried as to his or her contacts, where, and with whom he/she lives, had contact with, what they ate, area of travel, and did he/she go swimming, etc.

In all of the cases that were reported to the County Department of Public Health of Amebiasis, E. Coli, Giardia, Hepatitis A, Salmonellosis, and Shigellosis, none of the cases were proven to be caused by ocean water borne contacts. Further, there have been no deaths or epidemics from any of the above diseases that could be attributed to ocean water exposure.

There is no question in the opinion of the Public Health Department that many diseases (which are not required to be reported) are caused by swimming in the ocean. These diseases are characterized by skin conditions (rashes, eczema, etc.), ear infections, sinus infections and eye infections. These illnesses can be extremely disabling but rarely, if ever, fatal.

The Environmental Health Services Division of the Santa Barbara County Health Department has been monitoring the quality of the water at county beaches since September 1996.

In October 1997 AB 411 was passed which:

The new State regulations now require the posting of warning signs whenever any bacteriological standard is exceeded. This results in warning signs appearing on county beaches on a more frequent basis and leads to the perception that coastal water quality is deteriorating.

Project Clean Water

Project Clean Water (Appendix D) was initiated to get Public Health, Public Works, and the community in synchronization to do something about the pollution of the waters off the Santa Barbara coast. The Public Health Department has been following the laws of the State and Federal governments concerning the testing and reporting of the purity or non-purity of the ocean waters but environmental groups have been critical of the efforts of the government to clean up the ocean.

The interest and initiative of public interest groups continue to be essential to the community’s efforts to improve local water quality. Success of the long-term program will depend on the support and active participation of key interest groups and the public as a whole. A public outreach and education program has been initiated and will continue to be utilized to maintain this issue in the public awareness and to encourage community support for local governments’ efforts.


Current EIR

The Waste Disposal Facility at Tajiguas Canyon consists of two county owned parcels. The front or southernmost parcel is 130 acres in area. To date, 80 acres of this parcel have been used for trash disposal. If the proposed 15-year expansion landfill usage is permitted, disposal in this area will reach 680 feet elevation. The back parcel is 282 acres. Cover dirt from the back parcel has been used as cover for the disposal operation in the front. If the back canyon is used for landfill, its elevation will reach about 700 feet above sea level and will have a 15-year air space. Deliveries of waste to the site are measured by weight and recorded daily as mandated by state law.

Actual Maximum Canyon Capacity

The following description is quoted from a Conceptual Landfill Development Plan prepared by EMCON Associates in January 1991 for County Public Works. The Plan (Project C4-01.03) resulted from the commission to utilize the full capacity of the Waste Disposal Facility by using the front and back parcels for waste disposal and by benchfilling methods.

“…The capacity of the landfill is estimated to be 52.8 million cubic yards, which includes 14.8 million cubic yards of increased capacity as a result of the relocated access road. The available cover material is estimated to be 13.4 million yards, which is sufficient to meet the County's cover needs for the life of the site.

The landfill is open seven days per week. It is closed on New Year's Day, Easter, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The average daily tonnage delivered to the landfill is estimated by the County to be 1,000 tons per day, which includes the landfilling of demolition from the June forest fires in the county. The in-place density of the waste is estimated by the county to be 1,275 pounds per cubic yard. The solid waste delivered to the landfill in 1990 is estimated to be 359,000 tons, which is equivalent to approximately 706,000 cubic yards of landfill volume including daily cover.

The population in the county is expected to grow at the rate of less than one half of one percent per year. Therefore, with minimal population growth, the increase in solid waste is expected to be minimal.

The service life of the landfill can be estimated using the above criteria and recent mandated recycling goals. The best case scenario assumes that the County will meet mandated recycling goals of 25 percent by 1995 and 50 percent by year 2000. By meeting these goals, we estimate that the landfill will last until 2090 or 100 years. Under a worst case scenario of minimal recycling, we estimate that the landfill will last until 2050 or 60 years…”



The passage of the California Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989 (AB 939) marked a significant development in the way the State handled its solid waste stream. The Act set levels of waste diversion of 25 percent in 1995 and 50 percent in 2000, using 1990 baseline numbers. It laid out a strategic framework of regulation and conservation upon which to build a monumental public effort that would reshape how Californians perceived trash handling.

The Integrated Waste Management Board is the State agency responsible for protecting the public's health, safety and environment through the effective management of California's solid waste stream. The Waste Board encourages the conservation tenets of "reduce, reuse, and recycle" needed to reach the State's goal of diversion.

The CIWMB has determined that jurisdictions must show that they have reached 50 percent diversion by the end of the year 2000. That report is not due until Aug. 1, 2001. This interpretation of the law allows jurisdictions an additional year to reach the mandate. The law does mandate a fine of $10,000 per day for failure to reach the 50 percent goal. This has been treated as negotiable as long as “good faith” efforts are being made.

The waste stream for the south coast is as follows:

Household waste is separated by the homeowners into household trash, green waste, and recyclables. Franchise haulers pick up the trash and carry it directly to the landfill. Green waste is delivered to either the landfill or the transfer station and ground into mulch. Recyclables are delivered to the Transfer Station where they are stockpiled, reloaded onto County transports and delivered to three different Material Recovery Facilities (MRF's) for processing. Hospital waste is handled independently of the County and toxic waste is transported to Kettleman City, California (and never to Tajiguas).

As of April 2000, the County is currently at a diversion level of 42 percent. This has been achieved through a number of programs that have been implemented over the last several years. The primary focus of the County's programs has been in the residential sector, which achieved 43 percent diversion on the south coast and 35 percent in the north county in 1999, as reported by the County's franchisees. Green waste is collected separately and is recycled as mulch, which has commercial value.

Two areas have been identified where additional diversion can be achieved: (1) the commercial sectors, and (2) construction and demolition debris (C&D). The commercial sector (businesses and apartment complexes) generates approximately 45 percent of the County's waste stream.

Construction and demolition debris makes up approximately 14 percent of the waste being disposed at the Tajiguas Landfill. Some developers and contractors are already diverting a large percentage of their waste, primarily because they can save money doing so. On the south coast, MarBorg Industries has been operating a C&D sorting facility since 1991. MarBorg agreed to an increase from four to 20 percent in the amount of commercial diversion they are required to achieve. It should be explained here that even concrete is re-cycled by being ground up for re-use.

In March 1999, the County began sorting C&D at their South Coast transfer station and has been able to divert up to 1,000 tons per month. Overall, staff estimates that approximately 17,000 tons of additional material will be diverted through all of the C&D programs, resulting in a six percent increase in the countywide diversion rate. Finally, a new waste generation study will be conducted in summer 2000. The purpose of the study will be to determine what is still being landfilled, what our actual diversion rate is, and to increase the diversion rate.

To reach 50 percent diversion in the unincorporated South Coast, the population would have to divert 40 tons per day away from the Tajiguas Landfill. (ref; Public Works to SBGJ 4/11/00)[3]



The General Fund is not affected by solid waste operations within the County of Santa Barbara. The money to operate the County landfills is self generating collected mostly from tipping (unloading) fees paid by the franchised trash haulers and by recycling which is done by the Solid Waste Division of Public Works.

The main thrust of this report has been to examine the environmental and economic impact of Tajiguas Landfill. Three alternatives exist for future landfill operations:

  1. Expansion of Tajiguas Landfill

  2. Close Tajiguas and relocate the landfill within the County

  3. Privatization of waste disposal

The Grand Jury has found that:



The GJ found that the Department of Public Health and the Department of Public Works have done an excellent job in keeping the landfill environmentally safe. It was also concluded that the Tajiguas landfill was neither visually nor environmentally polluting.



We would like to commend the dedicated people in the community and particularly the environmental groups for their efforts in publicizing, promoting and attempting to maintain a clean and healthy environment in Santa Barbara County. We also commend the present Board of Supervisors for their decision to maintain control of the waste disposal operations in the county.



Finding 1: The in-situ water treatment zone past the collection trench at the Tajiguas landfill has not been built.

Recommendation 1: Public Works, Solid Waste Division should try to get an in-situ water treatment zone past the collection trench as soon as possible.

Finding 2: Tajiguas Landfill was found to neither contribute to pollution nor pose a health threat to the people of Santa Barbara County.

Recommendation 2: Maintain the current level of monitoring.

Finding 3: The Tajiguas landfill was opened in 1967 as a 100 year holding site. In the past 32 years, approximately half of its capacity has been used. With careful re-cycling, the site will be adequate for another 60 years.

Recommendation 3: Utilize the site to its capacity until the year 2060. Continue with the effort to find another site away from the coast. If and only when this is economically feasible, consider moving the waste operations to that site.

Finding 4: Recycling efforts are currently 40 tons per day short of the 50 percent of the 1990 baseline goal as mandated by AB 939.

Recommendation 4: Build a Material Recycling Facility (MRF) either at Tajiguas or a locally developed MRF, whichever is economically feasible, as recommended by the CAC report.



Board of Supervisors:
Findings 1, 2, 3, 4
Recommendations 1,2, 3, 4

Public Works Department:
Findings 1, 3, 4
Recommendation 1,3, 4

Public Health Department
Finding 2
Recommendation 2


(Excerpts from minutes)

Minutes of BOS meeting of Aug. 3, 1999


8) HEARING - Consider recommendations regarding Refuse Disposal Strategies for the South Coast, as follows: (99-21,298) (FROM JULY 13, 1999) (EST. TIME: 1 HR.)

a) Consider the long-term, intermediate and short-terns refuse disposal strategies identified in the report; b) Consider a 15-year Tajiguas Landfill expansion for purposes of environmental review;

c) Direct staff to develop another County Landfill. site as a long-term disposal solution;

d) Remove CAC alternative (Compost, MRF, and transfer station) from CEQA project level consideration and terminate

RFQ process for CAC proposal;

e) Direct staff to initiate independent process for development of a Material Recovery Facility (MRF)/Transfer Station as well as a Compost Facility;

f) Direct staff to proceed with all short-term options including a benchfill project and a minor fill project in the Coastal Zone at the Tajiguas Landfill site.

COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR'S RECOMMENDATION: APPROVE Marshall/Rose a) Conducted public hearing and considered the long-term, intermediate and short-term refuse disposal strategies. b) Approved. Directed staff to modify the project description to reflect the goal that the Tajiguas Landfill be closed within 15 years or sooner. c) Directed. d) Approved. e) Directed. f) Directed. No: Gray

Adjourn to Aug. 10, 1999,




AMEBIASIS 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
LOMPOC 1 11 10 9 14 3 19 6 6 2
SANTA BARBARA 4 25 34 8 8 11 19 14 13 7
SANTA MARIA 0 9 16 24 36 14 58 39 36 22
OTHER 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0
TOTALS 5 45 60 42 59 28 96 60 55 31
E.COLI 0I57:H7 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
LOMPOC 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 0 1 1
SANTA BARBARA 0 0 0 1 2 1 3 3 5 3
SANTA MARIA 0 0 0 1 0 3 0 0 0 0
OTHER 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
TOTALS 0 0 0 2 2 8 3 3 6 5
GIARDIA 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
LOMPOC 0 26 40 34 39 11 45 37 22 11
SANTA BARBARA 9 67 159 46 61 83 119 66 61 37
SANTA MARIA 1 54 33 55 96 37 81 77 97 58
OTHER 1 11 9 10 4 11 0 0 2 2
TOTALS 11 158 241 145 200 142 245 180 182 108
HEPATITIS A 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
LOMPOC 0 3 10 5 10 9 6 6 10 6
SANTA BARBARA 3 51 3 43 47 39 23 37 25 10
SANTA MARIA 1 11 24 10 23 31 5 26 19 9
OTHER 0 10 8 6 4 5 4 2 0 1
TOTALS 4 65 45 64 84 84 38 71 54 26
SALMONELLOSIS 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
LOMPOC 0 4 7 4 9 6 29 10 5 5
SANTA BARBARA 2 45 45 27 20 42 54 31 39 44
SANTA MARIA 0 15 22 6 13 28 2 20 11 12
OTHER 0 8 2 11 5 4 2 1 2 2
TOTALS 2 72 76 48 47 80 87 62 57 63
SHIGELLOSIS 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
LOMPOC 0 2 4 3 1 11 10 4 8 3
SANTA BARBARA 2 24 29 11 13 26 25 7 27 20
SANTA MARIA 0 9 17 21 6 13 1 10 16 17
OTHER 0 4 2 1 2 0 1 0 1 0
TOTALS 2 39 52 36 22 50 37 21 52 40


Project Clean Water Weekly data of Ocean Monitoring Results

Sample Testing Date: February 14, 2000

  Column 1   Column 2   Column 3    
Site Total Coliform Exceeds Standard Fecal Coliform Exceeds Standard Entero-coccus Exceeds Standard Beach Status
Rincon Beach west of creek 4106 No 384 No 173 Yes Advisory
Carpinteria State Beach 3448 No 128 No 240 Yes Advisory
Carpinteria City Beach 1723 No 20 No 63 No Open
Hammond Beach 17329 Yes 771 Yes 960 Yes Advisory
Butterfly Beach 17329 Yes 1187 Yes 839 Yes Advisory
East Beach @ Sycamore Creek 2755 No 175 No 146 Yes Advisory
East Beach @ Mission Creek 24192 Yes 1670 Yes 2064 Yes Advisory
Leadbetter Beach 3873 No 201 No 171 Yes Advisory
Arroyo Burro Beach 9208 No 259 No 738 Yes Advisory
Hope Ranch Beach 9208 No 119 No 391 Yes Advisory
Goleta Beach 12997 Yes 301 No 663 Yes Advisory
Sands @ Coal Oil Point 2613 No 92 No 332 Yes Advisory
El Capitan State Beach 3076 No 233 No 573 Yes Advisory
Refugio State Beach 3873 No 201 No 857 Yes Advisory
Arroyo Quemada 24192 Yes 2282 Yes 9804 Yes Advisory
Gaviota State Beach 17329 Yes 3130 Yes 4106 Yes Advisory
Jalama Beach 17329 Yes 1010 Yes 259 Yes Advisory
Ocean Beach 12033 Yes 282 No 836 Yes Advisory
Guadalupe Dunes 10 No 3 No 3 No Open

Column 1 Total Coliform Single sample std= 10,000 mpn

Column 2 Fecal Coliform Single sample std.=400 mpn

Column 3 Enterococcus Single sample std.=104 mpn

(*mpn = most probable number)





Project Clean Water is a coalition of government agencies, community groups, and individuals that have come together to investigate and implement solutions to the contamination in local creeks that is contributing to the water quality problems and closures at local beaches.

At the direction of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors , Project Clean Water was established in 1998 to identify and implement solutions to creek and ocean water

pollution on the South Coast. The County is joined in this effort by the cities of Santa Barbara and Carpinteria, and members of groups such as the Urban Creeks Council, the Audubon Society, Surfriders Foundation, Heal the Ocean, CURE, Coalition of Labor, Agriculture & Business, and the Community Environmental Council, as well as many community members.

Project Clean Water staff walk local creeks to perform a visual survey and note problems areas, and take corrective action as necessary. Staff also collect water samples, which are analyzed at a laboratory to determine the concentration of various types of pollution in the water. The pollutants tested for include bacteria, pesticides, and oil. Data from this water testing is used to target appropriate solutions.


[1] Information on the Integrated Waste Management Board may be found at: http://www. ciwmb.ca.gov/.

[2] The full text of the report can be obtained from the Solid Waste Division of the Public Works Department

[3] The full text of the report can be obtained from the Solid Waste Division of the Public Works Department