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Last Edited: 8/5/2010

Laytonville Landfill - Public Health Activities

In 2005, the California Department of Public Health--formerly California Department of Health Services (CDHS)--evaluated the public health implications from contamination at the Laytonville Landfill.

The site

The landfill is located near the town of Laytonville and next to the Laytonville Rancheria, home of the Cahto Tribe. The landfill operated as a municipal waste landfill between 1974 and 1993, during which the landfill received about 18,000 tons of waste. The landfill was closed in 1993 and capped in 1997.


CDHS's involvement at the site

CDHS became involved with the landfill in February 2000 in response to concerns raised by residents of the Laytonville Rancheria about possible health effects from past and current exposures to contaminated air, surface (drinking and bathing) water, groundwater, and surface soil.

CDHS looked at possible past, present, and future exposure to contaminants from the Landfill and assessed any related health risks to nearby residents or users of the Landfill. CDHS also conducted an investigation to find out if the number of cancer deaths from 1974 to 1994 among people living near the landfill was higher than the expected rates for this community. The evaluation and findings were presented in a report called a public health assessment (PHA).

Public Health Assessment for the Laytonville Landfill [3/22/05] - Appendices A-F


Summary of CDHS's findings

  • The following activities pose no apparent health hazard: playing in the leachate; swimming in the sedimendation ponds on landfill property; playing in Cahto Creek or in puddles that formed from surface water runoff; and eating fish or eel from Cahto Creek.
  • The chemicals found in nearby city drinking water system do not come from the landfill. 
  • The extent of contamination in the groundwater is unknown because of incomplete data.
  • The findings from the cancer investigation showed that cancer mortality rates within a 1-mile radius of the landfill were similar to those for Mendocino County as a whole.

Recommendations made in the public health assessment

  • The passive gas vents should be investigated to ascertain their adequacy in preventing migration of dangerous landfill gases.
  • Additional sampling and characterization should be conducted of the landfill hydrogeology and groundwater to better understand risks associated with the landfill. 
  • Communication with community residents should increase, to keep them aware of activities at the Laytonville landfill.
  • A well usage survey should be conducted within a half-mile of the landfill.
  • Yearly monitoring of the private drinking water wells located on adjacent and nearby properties to the landfill should be conducted.
  • Tribal restoration of the Cahto Creek within the Laytonville Rancheria property should occur.
  • Surface soil should be tested, on surrounding properties where surface water runoff occurred most frequently before the cap was constructed.
  • Soil sampling should occur in the areas of the landfill that were used for open burning and are still exposed.
  • All “leachate” that appears around the landfill should be tested regularly for VOCs, SVOCs, and metals.
  • An alternative to open burning should be utilized to deal with vegetation waste on the landfill and elsewhere, including on tribal land.
  • Awareness should be raised within the communities of the environmental effects of garbage burning (the air district strictly enforce the current prohibition of garbage burning, and the tribes regulate such activity).


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