Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lab #5- February 16, 2011

This Suitability Analysis exercise showed me the many different factors one must take into account when planning to put a landfill, dump, or other controversial type of property in a county. To find suitable locations in this fictional Montana county, elevation, soils, streams, landcover type and slope distance all had to be analyzed. All of this separate data then had to be combined to create the ultimate site for the new landfill. Using Spatial Analyst allows one to convert raster layers into grid layers and then input them into an analysis model. You can then compare and contrast each grid layer and determine potential sites.

The site must be chosen based on the water, land, and soils in the surrounding areas. Furthermore, as this LA Times article highlights, the site must be met with approval by the local populace. If a landfill is placed too close to a city or town, it may cause birth defects due to its high level of radiation. Though this has not been proven yet, the California government and the EPA are taking these charges very seriously, with an investigation underway.

These suitability analysis techniques will help this Central Valley city determine how to expand the landfill, if allowed. They will want to move it further away from the local population if possible, expanding it in such a way that would not bring it closer to residences. In order to prove that the site is not causing the harmful radiation and birth defects, the city should use suitability analysis to prove that the current location of the landfill is the best fit for that city.

When I reclassified each data layer on a scale of 1 to 5, it was purely subjective, based entirely on my own criteria. However, in the real world, public input as well as other criteria such as economic implications would also have been taken into account. This means that the California landfill now under investigation most likely had taken public input into account at the time of the landfill being built. However, perhaps the town was much smaller at that time or there were not such stringent laws at the time of its approval.

The landfill debate in the Central Valley shows that sometimes, this suitability analysis is not enough. I did not take the local population into account when creating this data, instead looking only at the environmental aspects of the county. In order to avoid serious health problems as well as costly legal battles, the county should also include local population as a factor. This California landfill is coming under fire due to its proximity to the citizens, which could have possibly been avoided had further analysis taken place.

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