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Duarte Turns to Horses to Halt Incinerator

June 05, 1986|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

The city of Duarte, which is trying to block construction of a toxic waste incinerator in neighboring Irwindale, today will submit its alternative plan for an equestrian center on the site.

Duarte officials will outline the plan at a meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers and the county Department of Parks and Recreation in hopes that the two agencies that control the land will support their project and reject the incinerator. The officials will meet at 2 p.m. today at the Whittier Narrows Visitors Center in South El Monte.

The disputed property consists of 13 acres north of Foothill Boulevard, east of the San Gabriel River. It is leased by the federal government to the county as part of the Santa Fe Dam recreation area, but county officials say they have no plans to develop it.

$10-Million Incineration Plant

The city of Irwindale and its redevelopment agency are seeking the site for Omega Recovery Services Corp., which would build a $10-million incineration plant that would burn 50 tons of hazardous waste a day, including chlorinated solvents, paint sludge and oil waste.

As an incentive for the county to give up its 50-year lease, Irwindale has offered to split its projected income, including a 10% tax on the plant's gross receipts, with the county.

Proponents of the toxic waste plant say that it is desperately needed by industry, would be operated safely and would not harm--and might even improve--air quality.

Opponents scoff at the environmental claims and insist that the plan would pose a threat to both air and ground water.

Center Would Occupy 20 Acres

The equestrian center proposed by Duarte would occupy not only the 13 acres sought for Omega but also an adjoining seven acres in Azusa that is part of the Santa Fe Dam recreation area lease.

The development would include riding arenas, stalls, parking lots and a restaurant.

Duarte officials said the development would cost $2 million to $3 million. They are studying various financing options, including the involvement of private investment and the creation of a joint-powers authority with other cities.

Jesse Duff, assistant to the city manager, said the equestrian proposal originated as an effort to block the incinerator, but "now it has taken on a life of its own." Local equestrian groups are enthusiastically backing the project, he said.

Insurance Proposal

Duff said the Duarte plan would serve organized equestrian groups and the public.

To reduce insurance liability problems that have forced many private stables to close, the center would rent horses only to experienced riders or those who have received instruction in horsemanship skills. The center would stress education and safety, he said.

Obtaining county support for the center will be difficult, Duff said, because the toxic incinerator project is potentially lucrative for the county.

Dennis O'Meara, Omega president, said a toxic-waste incinerator would produce about $1 million a year each for Irwindale and the county. Revenue for each could increase by $3 million a year with the planned addition of three more incinerators by 1988, he said.

Seeks Change in Lease

Ralph Cryder, county parks and recreation director, has asked the Army Corps of Engineers to prepare an amendment to the Santa Fe Dam recreation area lease to exclude the disputed property.

The present lease specifies that the property must be used for recreation. The only way Irwindale can acquire the land is for the county to surrender its lease.

Neither Cryder nor county supervisors have yet fully committed themselves to the Irwindale project.

Cryder said the toxic incineration plant could provide needed income to the county Parks and Recreation Department, but added that he is willing to consider Duarte's proposal.

Revenue Uncertain

He said revenue from the incineration plant would be uncertain even with guarantee of a site because the plant cannot open without extensive review by regulatory agencies.

Meanwhile, in Washington, two area congressmen have taken opposite sides on the issue. Rep. Matthew G. Martinez (D-Monterey Park) has agreed to introduce legislation that would transfer the property to Irwindale, while Rep. David Dreier (R-La Verne) has promised to fight for the equestrian center.

Martinez said he must wait for the county to take formal action giving up its lease before he can introduce legislation directing the secretary of the Army to give the property to Irwindale.

Martinez, whose district includes Irwindale and Azusa, said the transfer could be handled as an amendment to a public works bill that has gone to a House-Senate conference committee.

Asks Mayors to Oppose Project

Dreier, whose district includes Duarte and Glendora, opposes all waste incineration projects in the San Gabriel Valley on the ground that they would increase pollution in a high-smog area.

He has written to mayors of 30 cities asking them to join in opposing the Irwindale project and has received support from the cities of Azusa, Covina, Duarte, Glendora and South El Monte.

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