The decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to put the entire Operating Industries Inc. landfill on its Superfund list will delay, but not necessarily kill, plans by Monterey Park to turn 45 acres of the dump into a commercial complex, both proponents and opponents of the listing agreed Wednesday.
Assemblyman Charles M. Calderon (D-Alhambra), who led efforts to qualify the property for federal Superfund cleanup, said he expects the commercial complex to be built eventually, but not until the property is cleaned up.
The 45 acres is across the Pomona Freeway from the 135-acre Operating Industries landfill and is under the same ownership. The decision before EPA was whether to lump the two properties together for the Superfund listing, as some state legislators and the regional EPA office urged, or exclude the 45 acres, as requested by Gov. George Deukmejian's Administration and the city of Monterey Park.
Studies to Determine Safety
EPA officials in Washington agreed this week to keep the site intact at least until further studies determine the safety of the 45 acres.
Mike Rosenfeld, a spokesman for Transpacific Development Co. of Torrance, which has been working with Monterey Park to develop the 45 acres, said the EPA listing does not kill the project. He said neither Transpacific nor any other developer would touch the property as long as it is a Superfund site, but there is hope that the EPA will drop the listing before long.
Keith Takata, chief of the EPA's Superfund branch at the regional office in San Francisco, has said that the site could be removed if an evaluation of it over the next nine months to a year discloses that further cleanup efforts are not needed.
The Operating Industries landfill south of the freeway was closed in 1984. The northern 45 acres has not been used for dumping since 1952, but EPA officials say it contains pockets of methane gas, lead and other heavy metals, and such cancer-causing chemicals as benzene. State health officials say the site could be cleaned up by excavating the soil.
Threat to Ground Water
Calderon said he believes that contaminants on the site present the threat of ground-water contamination, and that the site must be cleaned up before the property is developed.
Calderon issued a statement Tuesday saying: "The history of governmental regulation of this site has been riddled by malfeasance, misfeasance and politics. This EPA decision is the first real ray of hope that my community's health and safety will be protected."
But Monterey Park Mayor G. Monty Manibog said the Superfund listing will delay the cleanup by disrupting the development plan, which would have generated $7 million for landfill cleanup, created 3,000 jobs and added $1 million a year to city sales tax revenue.
Says He's Bitter
"I'm bitter toward two people--Sen. (Art) Torres (D-South Pasadena) and Chuck Calderon . . . particularly Calderon," said Manibog, who stressed that he was speaking for himself only and not the City Council. He said the legislators had fought to put the 45 acres on the Superfund list despite ample evidence that the property did not have the sort of problems associated with the landfill itself. Manibog said there was never any question that the 135 acres south of the freeway belong on the Superfund list, and that the development plan worked out for the other 45 acres by Monterey Park, the state, Transpacific Development Co.and the property owners would have generated more than $7 million to help pay for the work.
Manibog said the EPA's history of inaction on Superfund sites suggests that the effect of putting the property on the federal priority list will be to delay cleanup rather than speed it.
Manibog said he especially resents interference in the Operating Industries Inc. Superfund issue by nearby Montebello because that city, which borders the landfill, stands to benefit financially by delaying Monterey Park's commerical project. He said a Monterey Park car dealer needs a new site, and if he cannot move to the 45-acre complex, he might move to Montebello.
Montebello City Administrator Joseph Goeden said Montebello is considering development of an auto mall on the south side of the Pomona Freeway, between the Operating Industries landfill and a new shopping center, but has not tried to thwart Monterey Park's commercial project. He said Montebello's only interest in the 45 acres has been to try to persuade the EPA to build a leachate treatment plant for the landfill at the site, rather than near homes bordering the 135 acres. Monterey Park officials claim that putting a leachate treatment system on the 45 acres would kill their commercial project by taking up too much room and by making the remaining property unattractive to tenants.
Manibog accused Calderon of "taking up Montebello's battle to keep Monterey Park from building a car center."