SAN DIEGO — The regional water pollution control agency on Monday designated three landfills in San Diego and Orange counties as possible dump sites for auto-shredder waste, the fine metal dust that has posed a disposal problem ever since it was classified as hazardous in 1982.
The three sites are the West Miramar and Otay landfills in San Diego and the Prima Deschecha landfill north of San Clemente, said Arthur L. Coe, supervising engineer for the Regional Water Quality Control Board.
However, Coe said none of the landfill operators appears willing to accept the wastes and take the mandatory precautions against it leaking into the ground. So the board's action is unlikely to solve the disposal problem in the near future.
"The indication we have received is that none of the three operators are particularly excited about the prospect of having shredder waste in their landfills," Coe said. He said one landfill operator implied he did not want the political heat associated with accepting hazardous, or marginally hazardous, waste.
Meanwhile, at the board's monthly meeting in San Diego Monday, staff members said they have ordered Paco Terminals of National City to choose one of three possible plans for cleaning up copper powder that has polluted San Diego Bay.
Coe said the copper-transport firm has until March 1 to tell the board whether it will bring the level of contamination down to background levels, lower the concentrations to a level "based on the presence of aquatic habitat in the bay" or do a lesser cleanup.
Coe said the board could accept the lesser cleanup "if Paco could convince the regional board that simply leaving the material there would result in not much harm to the environment, as opposed to a significant cost in removing the material."
Levels of copper found in shellfish and sediments in part of San Diego Bay are among the highest anywhere in the state, investigators say. Health and water-quality officials have said they are high enough to kill marine life in certain sections.
In a related matter, Coe said the board's staff hopes by late January to have completed a report that will name the source of unsafe levels of cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) found in another section of the bay, near Lindbergh Field.
Board officials originally said they would identify the source of the pollution last summer. However, they have repeatedly postponed the date, saying they need to collect more evidence for their case.
Shredder waste became especially problematical three years ago after health officials determined that it contains slightly higher levels of lead oxide than state rules allow in non-hazardous waste landfills.
As a result, shredding companies in San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles counties have had to pay to ship their waste out of state for disposal, to stockpile large quantities or to dump it illegally.
About 30,000 tons have been stockpiled at one company in Anaheim, one official said.
Coe said the board's action Monday "provides the shredders with a very clear direction that they have to go." He said they must convince the landfill operators that it is financially worth their while to accept shredder waste.