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Plan to Charge Firms for Toxic Spills Gains

January 15, 1986

Aproposal by West San Fernando Valley Councilwoman Joy Picus to charge companies or individuals responsible for toxic spills for the city's cleanup costs gained ground at Los Angeles City Hall on Tuesday.

The City Council's Finance and Revenue Committee instructed staff members to prepare a fee schedule listing city labor and equipment costs for the cleanup of toxic spills. It also ordered the drafting of an ordinance empowering the city to attach a lien to property where a spill has occurred if the owner refuses to pay cleanup costs.

Picus, who sits on the committee, told her colleagues that her proposal would help prevent taxpayers from being stuck with expensive bills when city crews are summoned to clean up toxic spills on private property.

Now, she said, "the city has little recourse to recover the costs expeditiously. We can try civil or criminal action, or hope for voluntary payment by the responsible party." She said the city can seek reimbursement through the federal toxic cleanup Superfund "or impose fines in cases where the Board of Public Works has the authority. These methods are lengthy, costly in themselves, indirect and sometimes uncertain."

Recently enacted state legislation empowers cities to require more direct recovery of cleanup costs, Picus said.

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