The Los Angeles City Council moved Tuesday to make those responsible for hazardous waste spills pay for the cost of cleanup.
The council unanimously directed the city attorney's office to prepare a fee schedule for billing those who cause toxic spills. The council also instructed the staff to set up a mechanism for placing a lien on the property of those who fail to pay.
The fee schedule and an enabling ordinance must be approved by the council and mayor before they go into effect. State law enables local governments to pass along cleanup costs to those responsible for the spills.
Those billed under the proposed ordinance could be haulers or firms using hazardous materials on their property, said Councilwoman Joy Picus, sponsor of the measure.
The spills are cleaned up by the city's Hazardous Waste Strike Force, which was created in 1982 and is composed of specially trained police officers, firefighters and sanitation employees.
Picus said the city has not yet added up the costs of training, salaries and equipment for the strike force but will do so before drafting the fee schedule.
In addition to those costs, she said, the city frequently must pay a private firm to haul away barrels of hazardous wastes that city employees are not equipped to handle.
The city Bureau of Sanitation paid an estimated $30,000 in 1985 to outside contractors to haul away toxic materials, a city spokesman said.
"Cleanup costs can be extraordinary," Picus said. "Sometimes the costly protective gear worn by the response team, and some of the equipment, must be thrown out afterward."