Wednesday, June 11, 2008 | 2:06 a.m.
Clark County officials and trash hauler Republic Services have been arguing for some time over who will pay the cleanup costs at the old Sunrise Landfill. Republic wants to raise garbage bills, but the county says it is Republic’s responsibility to foot the bill.
Meanwhile, the landfill is still in need of major cleanup work, and on Monday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered Republic Services to immediately start work to shore up the landfill.
The EPA notes that the work is needed to protect public health, and the agency wants to prevent another failure at the landfill. In September 1998 a series of storms sent a stream of trash from the landfill into the Las Vegas Wash, which runs into Lake Mead, the source of 90 percent of Las Vegas’ drinking water.
Republic Services issued a statement Monday saying it had already pledged to do the work and was working with the EPA to comply. The work will cost about $7 million but will only meet the immediate needs at the landfill. It is expected to take another $30 million to fully close the landfill.
In 1999 the company, which holds a monopoly in the Las Vegas Valley, pledged to clean up the landfill in exchange for a lucrative contract extension. But now the company is balking at paying the bill, and that is slowing the work necessary to close the landfill and protect the water supply.
Republic can argue about the bill all it wants, but the fact that this work has lingered for so long is absolutely wrong. This should be a priority for Republic. The EPA summed it up well in the headline of its news release on the order: “U.S. EPA orders landfill operator Republic: ‘Get to work.’ ”
Get to work, indeed. It is long overdue.