A controversial proposal by BKK Corp. to build a hazardous-waste treatment plant in Wilmington has cleared a major legal roadblock, and the company says it is taking steps to determine how soon it can get the permits needed to begin construction.
A three-member state Court of Appeal panel on May 30 upheld a 1984 Los Angeles Superior Court ruling that BKK's environmental impact report was valid. The panel found that the report meets federal standards for protecting the environment.
Ken Kazarian, president of BKK, said the Torrance company intends to apply to the state Department of Health Services for operating permits to enable it to complete the project, which was tabled when the suit was filed in 1984.
John Hinton, a spokesman for the state Department of Health Services, said his agency has reviewed an application submitted by BKK before the lawsuit was filed and would give the project serious consideration if the company renewed its application.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday June 19, 1986 Home Edition South Bay Part 9 Page 2 Column 1 Zones Desk 2 inches; 47 words Type of Material: Correction
Because of an editing error, a story in the June 12 South Bay section incorrectly stated that Los Angeles County has proposed treating liquid toxic wastes inside a special clay-lined, covered landfill. In fact, such a landfill would be used only to hold the wastes after they had been reduced to dry residue at a treatment plant elsewhere.
Kazarian said he was "very pleased with the (court's) decision. In 1982 we said we'd be operating by 1984, so now I think I'll just say we'll probably be ready within two years."
But JoAnn Wysocki, president of the Harbor Coalition Against Toxic Waste, a neighborhood group that filed the suit, said the coalition will appeal the ruling to the California Supreme Court. The coalition contends that the project would add toxins to local sewers that spill into Los Angeles Harbor through the city's Terminal Island Treatment Plant. The coalition also argued that the report failed to discuss the plant's effects on nearby schools.
"We're calling into question the process they use, the disposing of the remains, and what's going to be put into the sewers," Wysocki said.
"Wilmington will be the recipient of every drop of hazardous waste south of the Tehachapis (mountain range) if this goes through," she said.
Ron Gastelum, BKK's attorney, said he felt it highly unlikely that the Supreme Court would hear the case, since two lower courts had agreed that the report was valid.
But Ellen Winterbottom, attorney for the coalition, said she believes that the court will take the case because the report failed to consider many environmental problems.
The proposed plant, to be located near the Route 47 Freeway and Long Beach city limits in southeast Wilmington, would accept up to 87 truckloads per day of liquid hazardous waste from industries in the county. The liquid would be reduced during treatment to about 16 truckloads of dry residue.
The residue, which state and federal pollution officials say is far less hazardous than liquid waste, would probably be taken to one of the state's two remaining hazardous-waste sites, near Bakersfield and Santa Barbara, Kazarian said.
Local sewers would be used to dump the salty water from which the hazardous residues were removed.
Kazarian, whose company owns a defunct West Covina landfill that has been plagued by leaking gases and charges that it is contaminating the local ground water, said landfills are a thing of the past, and treatment is the way of the future.
"The fact is that with all the new laws coming on line, we are running out of places to put hazardous wastes, and treatment that dramatically reduces the volume of this stuff is the only way to go," Kazarian said.
Public Hearing Ahead
The project's biggest remaining hurdle is a public hearing before the state Department of Health Services, which would issue the company its operating permit.
Wysocki said her coalition expects the state to approve the permit.
"Everyone has always been saying that this process would solve the problem of hazardous wastes," Wysocki conceded. "But we feel the process simply prolongs the problem. Industry will never learn to stop producing hazardous waste if we give them a place like this where it can be treated."
Wysocki and other opponents predicted that the plant is at least several years away from construction and may not be built at all.
"The ruling is what I expected, but my personal opinion is that it never will be built," said Charles Stevenson, a coalition member. "The treatment process itself is not a very good one; it is too expensive. And there isn't an economical place left to take the (residue) because all the landfills are closing down or under scrutiny."
Flores Opposes Project
Diane Sallee, an aide to Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, in whose district the plant would be built, said she believes the project will run into major difficulties when BKK looks for a place to take the residues left by treatment. Flores has said she opposes the project.
"Unless something drastic happens to change it, I don't foresee it happening in the next year, or two, or three," Sallee said.
However, Councilwoman Joy Picus, who is also vice chairwoman of the eight-county Southern California Hazardous Waste Authority, said she was pleased by the court's action. "It's a first step in moving toward the siting of treatment facilities, and that is absolutely critical," she said.