Among 15 new National Historic Landmarks designated by Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, which include sites associated with the struggle for racial desegregation and pioneering architectural styles, is the Fresno Sanitary Landfill in Fresno, California. The landfill was recommended for inclusion by the National Park System Advisory Board for its “national significance in American history and culture”, and, from now on, will be a protected site, despite also being designated a Superfund site – in need of remediation – by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The 145 acre site, containing approximately 79 million cubic yards of rubbish and contaminating surrounding areas with vinyl chloride and other landfill gas contaminants, including Volatile Organic Compounds, is described by the Department of the Interior as “the oldest true sanitary landfill in the US, and the oldest compartmentalised municipal landfill in the western states, holding a service record of some 50 years of continuous operation from 1937 to 1987”. It was the first landfill to employ the trench method of disposal and the first to utilise compaction. At the Fresno site, “the layering of refuse and dirt in trenches, compacting the dirt and refuse, and then covering the filled areas daily to minimise rodent and debris problems represented the technique adopted by the builders of modern sanitary landfills”, thus representing a ‘true’ sanitary landfill and not simply a modification on older land-dumping methods, the Department said.

The landfill was designated as a ‘Landmark’, being recognised by the Secretary of the Interior as nationally significant properties of exceptional value in representing or illustrating an important theme in the history of the nation. “These special sites underscore our heritage and tell stories of periods and events in our history,” Norton said. “By preserving these unique sites, we share our culture and rich diversity with our children for future generations to learn from and enjoy.”

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