The City of Monterey Park is threatening to drop plans for a $110-million commercial development on part of the closed Operating Industries landfill site if it does not receive permission to move the rubble it grades to another area of the 190-acre dump.
The cost of moving the rubble to another landfill--estimated at $4 million--would make the project economically unfeasible, officials said.
Mayor David Almada said that if the South Coast Air Quality Management District hearing board denies Monterey Park's request, the project will be dead. "We want AQMD approval before we spend any more money. We want some direction from the AQMD. But if we are turned down, the problem (of the landfill) will not go away."
At 10:30 a.m. April 30, the city expects to get what promises to be its last chance to persuade a district hearing board meeting in El Monte to modify its ban on virtually all activity at the landfill and allow excavation on the north side. The excavation would make way for the 45-acre commercial development and a new Pomona Freeway interchange at Greenwood Avenue. Part of the city's request is for permission to dump the 120,000 cubic yards of material to be graded onto the newer, more controversial southern portion of the landfill. The meeting will be at the air quality district's headquarters, 9150 Flair Drive.
The district monitors the landfill, which was shut down by its owners in October, and now must decide whether excavating and moving the material would present a health hazard to residents of Monterey Park and neighboring Montebello.
The April 30 hearing, which was continued from the last two meetings, was opposed by the district staff because Monterey Park is asking for modification of the abatement order prohibiting dumping at the landfill even though the city has yet to obtain an excavation permit, which cannot be issued until state toxicity tests have been completed. But the city said it does not want to spend the money for state Department of Health Services soil tests until it is assured that the project can proceed if the tests prove the soil to be safe for transfer.
The city also said its project would provide up to $7 million toward cleanup of the dump. The site was closed to dumping in October, but experts estimate that the 10-story-high mountain of refuse in the southern portion of the dump is producing up to 35,000 gallons of hazardous liquid, or leachate, each day in addition to emissions of carcinogenic vinyl chloride gases and potentially explosive methane gas.
Tom Winfield, attorney for the city, said the developer, Trans-Pacific Development Co., would buy the 45 acres from Operating Industries for $7 million, which would go toward cleanup of the landfill.
If the excavation material must be trucked to another landfill, it would cost $4 million and that would be too expensive, Winfield said.
The state Department of Health Services has estimated total cleanup costs at $30 million and Operating Industries has placed the figure at $3 million.
Although the $7 million would not be available for cleanup if the project is canceled, Jim Birakos, deputy executive officer of the air quality district said, "our lone concern is to be sure we are not creating health and public nuisance problems for people living near the dump site. If money is available to help clean up the dump site that would be fine, but we are not concerned with money."
Approval Would Be Moot
Peter Greenwald, attorney for the district, argued against modifying the abatement order. He said approval of the dumping would be moot if the excavation permit is denied.
Three members of the five-member board--Harold Brown, Jack Dutton and B. C. Escobar--agreed with Greenwald. They also said they would listen to the city's arguments, although Dutton said today's hearing would not change his decision.
"If the AQMD turns us down," Winfield said, "the project is dead. We have already spent $260,000 in engineering and design work. Health Services is asking $70,000 for soil testing and we have to spend $250,000 more in engineering work done for Caltrans (for the interchange). But we won't spend the money if the AQMD says we can't deposit waste at the site."
Operating Industries would "prefer to see the sale go through because we want to convince the state we are operating in good faith," said Dan Spradlin, an attorney for the company. "If we had a choice, we would prefer not to sell the 45 acres," he said, "but we have no choice because the state has mandated that we finance improvements at the site, such as controlling migrating gases."
Wrecking Yard Site
City Manager Lloyd de Llamas said the 45-acre site north of the freeway, which has not been used as a dump for many years, is blighted, has no paved roads and is used by an auto wrecking yard and an asphalt plant.
He said extending Greenwood Avenue and building the interchange would also benefit Montebello by improving traffic flow and freeway access. He added that Monterey Park has an inadequate tax base and that the development, which would include a 15-acre auto sales center, discount outlets, a hotel, restaurants and offices, would generate $1 million a year in sales tax revenue and create 3,000 jobs.
But his emphasis was that the project would generate money to clean up the landfill.
His argument at last week's hearing did not impress residents, mostly from Montebello, who bear the brunt of odors from the landfill. For years, they fought for closure of the landfill. Hank Yoshitake, chairman of Homeowners to Eliminate Landfill Problems, said his group, representing 460 area families, strongly opposes new activity at the landfill.
"We are not against the project itself but we object to reopening the dump," Yoshitake said.
"We want that material trucked out.