City leaders from Santa Fe Springs and Long Beach reacted with mixed emotions this week as Los Angeles County waste planners unveiled a list of 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, mentions 20 possible sites for half a dozen hazardous waste treatment plants to be constructed in heavy industrial sectors scattered across the county.
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.
Twelve potential sites, most of them available for sale, were named Tuesday in Santa Fe Springs, Vernon, Commerce, Bell and Long Beach. Eight others are in Carson, Irwindale, Azusa and the San Fernando Valley.
Federal Agency Backs Plan
Although the county's plan is strongly backed by officials of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, city leaders this week expressed reactions ranging from caution to heated opposition.
Don Powell, Santa Fe Springs city manager, said the 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.
"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."
Powell said the city is moving away from its past reliance upon heavy industry. Last week, he said, city officials tentatively approved limiting the number of above-ground storage tanks permitted in Santa Fe Springs to the present 313 tanks.
"There is a transformation taking place in this city in terms of kinds of businesses, and we have more light industry and mid-tech companies and less and less heavy industry," Powell said.
"We don't want to expand the risk level any further in this city. We're definitely going in the opposite direction from this county report."
The five sites identified in Santa Fe Springs, most of which Powell said are in escrow for other uses, are at 9601 John Street, Los Nietos Road at Dice Road, 9101 Sorensen Avenue, Springdale Avenue at Florence Avenue and Bell Ranch Drive north of Santa Fe Springs Road.
4 Sites in Vernon
Four sites were identified in Vernon. They are at 3333 Downey Road, 3691 Bandini Blvd., 4408 Bandini Blvd. and 3113 E. 26th St.
One site was identified in Bell, a parcel between Bandini Boulevard and Lindbergh Lane just east of Atlantic Boulevard. Another site was identified in Commerce at 3416 Garfield Ave.
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, on California 47 at the Cerritos Channel, 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.
Nathan Manske, director of public safety in Carson, said he is reviewing the county's proposal and preparing to report his recommendations to the City Council at their Oct. 21 meeting.
Four potential sites were identified in Carson, in addition to a fifth site proposed in an unincorporated area just north of the city.
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."