City leaders from Carson to Azusa reacted with mixed emotions this week as Los Angeles County waste planners unveiled a list of 20 potential sites they say are suitable for building a proposed countywide system of hazardous waste treatment plants.
The county's proposal, patterned after similar treatment systems used in Germany and Denmark for several years but never attempted on a large scale in the United States, calls for half a dozen hazardous waste treatment plants to be constructed in heavy industrial sectors scattered across the county.
Reduce to Dry Cakes
According to engineers for the county Sanitation Districts, the proposed plants would use chemical processes and intense heat to turn liquid hazardous wastes into less hazardous dry cakes and ash. The plan is to haul dry residues to a remote desert site for encapsulation in a clay-lined "residuals repository," which scientists say will not leak like a conventional moist landfill.
Potential sites named Tuesday, most of them available for sale, are in Santa Fe Springs, Carson, Vernon, Commerce, Bell, Long Beach, Irwindale, Azusa and the San Fernando Valley.
Although the county's plan is strongly backed by officials of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, leaders of many cities this week expressed reactions ranging from caution to heated opposition.
Nathan Manske, director of public safety in Carson, said he is reviewing the county's proposal now and is preparing to report his recommendations to the Carson City Council at its Oct. 21 meeting.
Four Sites in Carson
Four potential sites were identified in Carson, in addition to a fifth site proposed in an unincorporated area just north of the city.
The sites are 2420 East 223rd St., 2112 East 223rd St., 1231 East 230th St. and Watson Center Road at Wilmington Avenue. The fifth site north of Carson is at Doogan Avenue and Del Amo Boulevard.
Manske declined comment on the merits of the county's plan, saying he wants to "find out exactly what's been proposed and how it would work."
"It is our understanding from the county that there is no intent to force any site on a city, and that local land use practices and policies as established by city councils will prevail," Manske added. "We are operating under that assumption."
In fact, officials of the county Department of Public Works and the Sanitation Districts noted in their report to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that, "It will take a concerted effort to convince the public and elected decision makers that modern hazardous waste treatment centers . . . are in no way like Superfund sites of the past."
Don Powell, Santa Fe Springs city manager, said his City Council last week voted unanimously to oppose construction of any hazardous-waste treatment plant there and has sent a letter to the county expressing its opposition to the proposal, which identified five sites in the city.
"The City Council will fight it all the way," Powell said. "Our feeling in Santa Fe Springs is that we have all the hazards we want here."
John Dever, Long Beach city manager, said he had not been informed about the county's list of potential sites, but noted that Long Beach has strict zoning ordinances concerning hazardous wastes.
"It couldn't be done without a hell of a lot of work on its environmental impact, traffic impacts and many other concerns," Dever said.
The single potential site named in Long Beach, near the Route 47 Freeway at Cerritos Channel in the harbor area, also takes in a large portion of Los Angeles city territory.
But Dever said he would "have to see the piece of land they are proposing, because we might oppose it just on its face if we don't agree with the location."
He expressed concern that the county had not asked the city to help identify potential sites in Long Beach's industrial area, saying, "We could have saved them a lot of trouble if they had just called us and let us know what they were doing."
The county Department of Public Works and the county Sanitation Districts hired a Coldwell Banker industrial real estate specialist to conduct a search of the county's industrial zones. According to their joint report, the sites selected had to include 5 to 15 acres of land near a freeway or major access road and near an adequate sewer system.
Last Dump Closed
County officials are seeking a safe way to dispose of more than 550,000 tons of hazardous wastes that require disposal in Los Angeles County each year because the few remaining legal disposal sites have closed down or are coming under EPA scrutiny for contamination problems.
Last winter the last hazardous waste dump in the county, the BKK landfill in West Covina, was closed to hazardous waste, forcing waste generators to hire trucking companies to haul the hazardous materials to two dump sites about 200 miles north of Los Angeles.
However, strict new federal laws, to be phased in over the next five years, will prohibit dumping of untreated hazardous wastes and liquids, forcing the county to find an alternative.