The county Regional Planning Commission on Thursday ordered Space Ordnance Systems to institute a method of disposing of its hazardous wastes by April 10 or face revocation of its zoning permits.
After delivering a strongly worded warning to the Santa Clarita Valley company, the commission also ordered SOS to submit a plan for funding the cleanup of its chemically tainted sites in Agua Dulce and Sand Canyon.
"If nothing has changed by April 10, I will vote for revocation, period," said Commissioner Delta Murphy. "I want to get rid of that stuff and solve the problem."
Burning Variance Mulled
The South Coast Air Quality Management District is now considering granting SOS a variance from prohibitions on open burning to get rid of the waste the firm has accumulated so far. The company, which manufactures flares and explosives for the military, wants to burn 1,500 drums of accumulated explosive and mildly toxic wastes at a desert site proposed by the company 25 miles east of Lancaster.
A second option, to turn the waste over to the U.S. Department of Defense for disposal, has been rebuffed by Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger.
Once the accumulated waste has been destroyed, the company wants to build a permanent incinerator in the desert for burning newly produced wastes, said David Breier, attorney for SOS.
If SOS has not received approval from either the Department of Defense or the Air Quality Management District for immediate disposal of the wastes by the April 10 deadline, a public hearing on the permits revocation issue will be held April 17. Any decision by the commission could be appealed to the Board of Supervisors.
Warning that SOS is just one of scores of producers of hazardous wastes that have operated for years in Los Angeles County without government monitoring, the five-member commission also called for a county report on the status of other producers of toxic wastes.
"These sites are absolutely unmonitored," said Commissioner George Lefcoe. "There is nobody watching this candy store, and there is no control of this (the SOS) site and what goes on there. I want that all to change."
Lefcoe and Murphy said that the problems of monitoring and cleaning up SOS and similar sites are too big for the county to handle alone, and asked their staff to investigate the feasibility of hiring private subcontractors to act as government watchdogs.
"I want a permanent on-site inspector to monitor this facility, and, when something is found to be wrong, I want something to happen," Lefcoe said. "I don't trust the county to do the job."
'State Help Needed'
Murphy said the county will need state help to police SOS and other industrial polluters.
Since last spring, SOS has been under orders from state and county agencies to dispose of the 1,500 drums of waste, which were discovered to be illegally stored after an employee tipped off local authorities. The state and county also have accused SOS of mixing their wastes with water and spraying the tainted liquid onto the ground and trees around the site.
Tests have shown traces of toxic chemicals in ground water near the two plants operated by SOS. Some private wells downhill from the sites have been ordered closed, and nine nearby families have filed suit, contending that tainted drinking water has made them sick, killed their livestock and caused them emotional distress.
One suit, filed in early February, alleges that tainted drinking water led to the death of Diane Hercules, 41, who died of leukemia last November. The suit alleges that her daughter, Denise, 19, has also contracted leukemia from polluted water.
Pointing to the presence of other industries nearby, SOS officials have contended there is no prooof their plants are responsible for the contaminated ground water. They also deny that their operations are responsible for any health problems in the area.