WEST COVINA — For years, the city has unsuccessfully pushed for BKK Corp. to convert its controversial dump into some type of operation that has nothing to do with garbage.
And now it appears that city officials may finally be able to attain that goal.
BKK Corp. has asked West Covina to defer its monthly business license tax payments. The city is using that request as a bargaining chip to force BKK to transform the 583-acre former toxic waste dump into "a land use that is productive to the community," City Manager Bob Fast said last week.
"What we don't want is an abandoned landfill," Fast said. "What we do want is to know and have planned a contract for land use that is compatible to the community."
Kenneth Kazarian, a BKK vice president, said his firm is willing to listen to and discuss the city's proposals for the site.
Although BKK is still accepting normal refuse, the dump operators voluntarily stopped receiving hazardous waste on Dec. 1, l984. Controversy had swept the landfill when it was discovered that dangerous gases were escaping from the dump and enveloping a nearby residential neighborhood.
In July, 21 families were evacuated from their homes because of migrating methane and vinyl chloride, a known carcinogen. Federal and state regulatory agencies did not allow 10 of the families to return to their homes until January.
Since then, things have been relatively quiet around the dump and its neighboring housing tracts. Health officials have reported a substantial decline in dangerous gas levels, and have attributed the decline to the extensive work done by BKK to control such gases.
Last month BKK asked the city to defer its $40,000- to $50,000-per-month tax payments, which are based on 10% of the firm's gross revenues, so that BKK could use the money to comply with the terms of an agreement, recently settled in court by the city, BKK, and regulatory agencies, on how to control and monitor the hazardous gases migrating from the dump.
According to BKK vice president Kenneth Kazarian, his firm "has just about reached compliance" with the agreement. The agreement, he said, basically calls for certain testing, installation of wells to monitor gases, and other precautionary measures.
Kazarian said his firm had undertaken much of the work called for in the agreement long before it was filed in court two months ago. "It really didn't call for anything additional," he said. "It just set forth some time frames.
"We need that money," Kazarian said, "because we're doing a lot of work out there that will surpass the terms of the stipulated agreement." The firm also needs the money, he added, for a planned electrical plant at the dump which would convert collected gases into electricity.
The first phase of the plant is expected to cost $6.5 million, Kazarian said, and will be operating in about a year, if all goes according to plan. BKK has already obtained the necessary permits from the city and the Air Quality Management District to build the plant, which is expected to generate enough electricity to power 7,000 to 8,000 homes.
BKK wants to defer the city tax payments for about one year and pay back the city with revenues from the generating plant, Kazarian said.
The City Council has instructed city staff to review BKK's request and come up with a "quid pro quo agreement," Fast said. "BKK wants something from the city," he said, "and there is something that the city wants too--transition of the site to a totally different usage, totally away from a landfill operation."
Fast said that the city is considering some type of light industrial use or an office park for the site, but that a specific recommendation will not be forthcoming until the city discusses the plans with BKK.
"We wouldn't want to lose the opportunity to move forward by being totally ridiculous in what we're asking for," Fast said.