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Residents Leery : Pact on BKK Draws Doubts

February 03, 1985|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

WEST COVINA — Leaders of homeowner groups here, disappointed in efforts to close the controversial BKK landfill, were already looking with a jaundiced eye at an agreement reached late last week among five state regulatory agencies, the city and BKK Corp. on how to control environmental problems at the dump.

But BKK Vice President Kenneth Kazarian said that the agreement assures continued operation of the landfill and that he expects it to be in business for another 20 years.

The agreement is contained in a 28-page stipulated preliminary injunction that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Norman L. Epstein is to consider at a hearing at 10 a.m. Monday. Its signers are the city, BKK, the state Department of Health Services, the California Waste Management Board, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the state Air Resources Board and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Requirements Listed

If approved in court, it will require BKK Corp. to install gas extraction wells, remove water from the site, control air emissions, cover all waste with a foot of clean earth and carry out a host of other orders to monitor and prevent pollution of the environment. Much of the work is expected to be carried out within the next year.

But at least some homeowners believe the city should still push for closure instead of settling for pollution-control measures.

"It's the same old garbage, as far as I can see," said Les Cook, president of the Hearthstone Homeowners Assn. "There's no way they can stop the odors as long as they keep bringing more garbage in. The only way is to close it and clean it up."

Protecting Each Other

And Tom Whisenhunt, spokesman for the Coalition of West Covina Homeowners Assns., which has long fought the dump, said he blames the city, the regulatory agencies and BKK Corp. for the dump's problems and said all they are doing is protecting each other.

"Continued dumping is only going to exacerbate the problem," he said.

BKK Corp. has filed a closure plan with the state for the 150 acres where hazardous waste formerly was deposited and where other refuse is now being buried, and is scheduled to end disposal there by 1989. But, Kazarian said, other parts of the 583-acre dump would still be open to disposal and could continue in operation for another 20 years.

BKK was one of the nation's largest hazardous waste dumps until it stopped accepting hazardous waste in November. Since then, BKK has remained open to household refuse and other non-hazardous materials.

Pact Called 'Milestone'

City Manager Herman (Bob) Fast hailed the agreement as a "milestone" that substitutes cooperation for the adversarial relationship that developed between the city and BKK after the city sued in July to close the dump as a nuisance.

City Atty. Colin Lennard said the city has tried hard to win a court order to close the dump, but has failed, and now has secured an agreement that is "a major step forward," spelling out cleanup and monitoring procedures.

The city filed suit against BKK Corp. and the state and regional agencies that regulate landfills after methane gas leaks forced the evacuation of 19 families from their homes in the neighboring Hearthstone tract in July. Epstein denied the city's request for closure, but has issued a series of orders dealing with gas migration and ground water contamination.

Kazarian said BKK has corrected the gas leak problem that led to the evacuation of homeowners. The dump's gas collection system is working around the dump's perimeter to keep gas on the site.

Odors Still Escaping

But, Kazarian said, the concentration of effort on the perimeter has forced BKK to neglect the interior of the dump site and odors have been escaping into the neighborhood.

Cook, who lives just south of the dump, said the odors have been so bad in his neighborhood that he has been calling authorities twice a day for two weeks to complain.

Concerning the new agreement, Lennard said the judge's orders have forced the regulatory agencies to cooperate with each other more than ever before. And now all of the parties in the lawsuit have agreed on steps that must be taken.

Michael Miller, West Covina community services division manager, said the agreement addresses three major problems: odor, gas migration and leachate control. Many of the requirements in the agreement are already in effect under regulatory orders, Miller said, but the new agreement brings everything together in one package, listing the steps BKK must take and setting deadlines for compliance.

'Have a Cookbook'

"We now have a cookbook that everybody has agreed to," said Miller. And if the judge puts the agreement into a court order, BKK Corp. will have to carry out the work or risk being held in contempt, he said.

While the city still wants the dump closed, Mayor Robert Bacon said that keeping the dump open may be the only way to get money to pay for monitoring and cleanup operations. If the dump were to shut down, he said, BKK Corp. could not pay for the work it has been ordered to do.

"The reality is that BKK must be in business in order to force them to do the work," Bacon said.

Kazarian said the monitoring and cleanup steps contained in the proposed injunction will cost "several million dollars."

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