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Firm Gives Up on Plan for Irwindale Toxic Waste Plant

July 10, 1986|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

IRWINDALE — Omega Recovery Services has abandoned its controversial plan to build a toxic waste incinerator in Irwindale, conceding that it cannot obtain legislation from Congress to make federal land available for the site.

Robert Finch, attorney for Omega, said Wednesday that he has sent a letter to Irwindale City Manager Charles Martin withdrawing the company's application for a city permit to construct the plant.

The letter cites the inability to obtain federal legislation to make the site available and the lack of "rational public discussion" on the issue.

Dennis O'Meara, president of Omega, said that no one seemed to want to hear the case for the incinerator.

'Don't Want to Hear'

"You have all the politicians screaming about hazardous waste, but they don't want to hear a solution," he said.

Omega, which has a $2-million-a-year business in Whittier recycling industrial chemicals, had proposed a $10-million plant on 13 acres north of Foothill Boulevard, east of the San Gabriel River.

The plant would have burned 50 tons of solvents and other hazardous waste a day to generate 3 megawatts of electricity for sale to Southern California Edison Co.

However, in order to obtain the site, Omega needed federal legislation directing the Army Corps of Engineers to turn the property over to Irwindale, and Rep. David Dreier (R-La Verne) successfully blocked that effort.

O'Meara blamed Dreier for killing the project.

'Very Shortsighted'

"He has been very shortsighted," O'Meara said, adding that he is so bitter about Dreier's role that if his company succeeds in building a toxic waste incinerator elsewhere, it will refuse to handle any waste from plants in Dreier's congressional district.

"We'll tell them to send the waste to Dreier in Washington," O'Meara said.

O'Meara said that Dreier took up the fight against the incineration project without ever talking to him about it. He contended that Dreier's attitude was "don't confuse me with the facts."

But Dreier said that his staff members met twice with O'Meara and he was fully informed before taking a stand.

Dreier said O'Meara was being "ludicrous and petty. Obviously he's trying to make a personal thing out of this."

Offers Help

Dreier said he believes that incineration may be a solution to toxic waste disposal, but not in Irwindale or the San Gabriel Valley.

"We'll do whatever we can to help Omega pursue this technology in an unpopulated, unpolluted area," he said.

He noted that the Irwindale site was opposed by neighboring cities, four of which--Duarte, Azusa, Baldwin Park and Glendora--said they would support efforts to develop an equestrian center on the site if the Army Corps of Engineers would make the property available.

The site currently is leased to the county as part of the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, but the county has said it has no use for the land.

Jesse Duff, assistant to the city manager in Duarte, said that the equestrian project has generated so much interest that the cities will pursue it regardless of the toxic incinerator's fate.

Objections to Location

Duff said that Duarte officials have never argued with incineration as a means of disposing of hazardous waste. But, he said, the proposed site in Irwindale was close to homes and on top of an earthquake fault.

In addition, the proximity of the San Gabriel River, he said, could have provided a means for chemicals to invade the area's water supply.

But Omega officials argued that the plant would not leak chemicals into ground water and that the plant would not degrade air quality.

O'Meara said that his company spent $1 million and five years planning the Irwindale plant and trying to secure approval of the site.

Other Sites Considered

He said that the company still hopes to build a toxic waste incinerator and is looking at half a dozen potential sites, none of them in the San Gabriel Valley.

O'Meara said that he is convinced that the proposal can meet all state and federal regulations. The difficulty, he said, is getting local approval for a site.

He said that those who argue that such incinerators do not belong in urban areas overlook the fact that urban areas generate hazardous waste.

"It's the paint, the dry cleaning, the pharmaceuticals. . . . It's everyone's problem," he said.

And those who propose shipping the waste to remote locations also ignore the fact that remote areas don't want the waste, he said.

"Nobody wants an incinerator in their backyard," O'Meara said.

But, he said, something must be done with the hazardous waste that is generated.

"I'll eventually get a site, somewhere, somehow," O'Meara said.

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