EL MONTE — The South Coast Air Quality Management District will be asked today to lift its ban and allow partial grading of the controversial Operating Industries Inc. landfill in Monterey Park.
The request comes from the City of Monterey Park, which wants to excavate a portion of the 180-acre landfill to make way for a 45-acre commercial development and a new Pomona Freeway interchange at Greenwood Avenue.
The hearing will begin at 9:30 a.m. at district headquarters, 9150 Flair Drive.
The air quality district, which has monitored the landfill since its owners shut it down last October, has imposed a virtual ban on all activities at the site.
The project cannot be built without grading because the land slopes, city officials said. The air quality district must decide whether moving the material would present a health hazard to residents.
Monterey Park and Montebello residents have raised concerns about the safety of the proposed excavation. Hank Yoshitake, chairman of Homeowners to Eliminate Landfill Problems, said his group, which he said represents 460 families, strongly opposes activity at the landfill. He said the group will appear before the air quality board to protest the excavation.
Monterey Park has tested soil in the proposed project area for toxins, said City Manager Lloyd de Llamas, and the results were negative. De Llamas said the city is asking the air quality district for preliminary approval to relocate the old trash to another section of the landfill pending the result of similar tests by the state. If the district gives preliminary approval for the tests to be done, they are expected to be completed by June.
De Llamas said his city is planning a 45-acre commercial project immediately north of the Pomona Freeway, developed by Trans-Pacific Development Co. The project would include a 15-acre auto sales center, a discount outlets, a hotel, restaurants and offices.
The entire dump site is owned by Operating Industries. About three years ago, de Llamas said, the air quality district assumed responsibility for overseeing landfill activities on behalf of county, state and federal agencies.
The dump closed in October after years of public controversy and complaints from residents in Monterey Park and Montebello. Its owners are under several court orders to control dangerous gases and contaminated water seeping from the site into adjacent neighborhoods.
Experts estimate that the 10-story-high mountain of refuse in the southern portion of the dump produces up to 35,000 gallons of hazardous liquid, or leachate, per day, in addition to emitting carcinogenic vinyl chloride gases and potentially explosive methane.
Operating Industries has not dumped trash on the north side of the freeway for several years, de Llamas said.
De Llamas said the commercial development could generate $1 million a year in sales tax revenue for the city and create about 3,000 jobs. "It also would allow us to clean up a blighted area," he said.
The remaining 135 acres of landfill south of the freeway would not be included in the development, but ramps for the new freeway interchange would be built on the dump's southwestern section.
City engineers estimate that about 120,000 cubic yards of refuse must be excavated and removed from the path of the proposed interchange, which would be built at Greenwood Avenue south of Potrero Grande Drive.
De Llamas said the city's plans include the possible extension of Greenwood Avenue through the southern portion of the landfill. The street extension would connect Monterey Park's Potrero Grande Drive to the north with Montebello's Howard Avenue and Jefferson Boulevard to the south. De Llamas said the new street would ease traffic between Monterey Park and Montebello by providing an additional north-south route.
District officials said they will impose strict guidelines for excavation to prevent landfill odors from becoming a nuisance to residents. The guidelines will include the spraying of excavated areas with foam to seal the surface, and covering and sealing trucks transporting excavated materials to minimize odors.
De Llamas said that the hours during which excavation was done would depend on wind factors. "We want to do the excavation by late summer. It is expected to take 60 days but we can do it in a shorter time if we do it during the summer, because of the wind currents."
De Llamas said the total cost of the commercial development is estimated at $98 million and would be financed by city and private funds. The $12-million interchange would be financed through federal and state highway funds.