State officials monitoring the contaminated Operating Industries landfill near Montebello say that a preliminary injunction to be issued against the company will help protect the environment and nearby residents.
"We were happy the judge granted as much relief as he did," said Deputy Atty. Gen. Lisa Trankley. "We expect compliance will go a long way toward solving much of the problem."
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Norman Epstein ruled Aug. 26 that an injunction be issued directing the company to control contamination at its landfill in Monterey Park. Epstein has not signed the injunction yet, Trankley said, because lawyers for both sides have not agreed on one of the provisions unrelated to the cleanup orders.
Complaints About Fumes
The injunction was sought by the state attorney general's office and the state Department of Health Services because officials said the company has failed to comply with past administrative agency cleanup orders and has violated several environmental laws. Residents of Montebello and Monterey Park have complained for years of noxious fumes coming from the site.
"What is significant now is that we have finally gotten a court order," Trankley said. "If the company fails to comply they can be held in contempt and criminal proceedings might be instituted."
Dan Spradlin, an attorney for Operating Industries, said the company would attempt to comply with the orders.
"We were hopeful that the court would decide that an injunction was not necessary," Spradlin said. "We were attempting and will continue to attempt to clean up the area."
John Hinton, an official with the state Department of Health Services, said the Environmental Protection Agency is continuing an investigation of the site and studying how best to handle the landfill cleanup.
State health officials have indicated that if the company is financially unable to comply with the orders, the EPA would clean up the site.
Terry Wilson, a spokesman for the EPA in San Francisco, said the federal agency had already allocated $1 million from the federal Superfund to start a "site stabilization" program. In the first phase, which he said began in July, methane gas collection wells are being installed while an attempt is made to stabilize the slope of the landfill mound.
Wilson said that if Superfund money must be used to carry out the judge's order, the EPA can sue Operating Industries for three times the cleanup cost.
Hazardous Waste Site
The Department of Health Services said the dump is producing potentially explosive methane gas and as much as 10,000 to 12,000 gallons per day of leachate, a toxic liquid resulting from the decomposition of wastes. The landfill is on both the state and federal Superfund lists of hazardous waste sites. Officials have estimated the cleanup costs at anywhere from $4 million to $20 million.
Montebello City Administrator Joseph Goeden said his city is relieved that the problem is finally being addressed.
"I'm glad that the regulatory agencies are getting the information to ensure that the people responsible are correcting the problem," Goeden said. "Our biggest concern is the methane gas; where is it going and is it endangering anyone?"
The 90-acre landfill was opened in 1948 and accepted hazardous wastes from 1981 to 1984. The dump has not accepted new wastes since 1984.
Under the injunction, Trankley said, Operating Industries must monitor the leachate levels at the landfill, submit a detailed description of the surrounding area, install additional methane gas collection wells and monitoring probes to detect any migrating contamination and demonstrate that it will safely manage the closure of the landfill .
Deadlines for Compliance
The company will have seven days from the date of the order to report to the state Department of Health Services on leachate levels at the facility and 45 days to submit a plan outlining the steps necessary to contain leaks at the landfill and maintain the facility once the leaks have been contained.
Epstein had issued a preliminary injunction in July directing the company to transport leachate to authorized hazardous waste facilities.
Alexis Strauss, chief of the enforcement section in the EPA's San Francisco office, said the company has complied with that order, transporting as much as 5,000 gallons a day of leachate to an authorized facility in Carson.
Earlier this year, the state and Operating Industries agreed to establish a trust fund from the company's $6-million sale of 45 acres of an uncontaminated area of the landfill. The fund is to be used to help clean up the site.