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2 Cities Squabble Over Possible Site for Toxic Cleanup

August 03, 1986|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

Even though the federal Environmental Protection Agency has not decided whether a plant is needed to treat leachate at the closed Operating Industries Inc. dump, Monterey Park and Montebello already are feuding over the possible site.

The Monterey Park City Council has begun action to ensure that any plant would be built on the portion of the dump south of the Pomona Freeway.

But homeowners in Montebello who live next to the dump and officials of that city insist that the plant be built across the freeway, well away from their homes.

"The dump belongs to Monterey Park, but we have to put up with the odors," said Robert King, fire chief and acting city administrator of Montebello.

Nuisance to Residents

King said that the leachate plant would be noisy and a nuisance to residents.

Thousands of gallons of leachate, which is liquid that has passed through waste, are collected at the dump daily and trucked to a plant in Vernon for treatment and disposal.

The EPA took over cleanup activities at the dump in May after Operating Industries said it could no longer pay for the work. Agency officials say that it might be cheaper to install a treatment plant at the site rather than continue to haul leachate away at a cost of 30 cents a gallon.

The Monterey Park City Council last week instructed the Planning Commission to hold hearings on a proposed zoning amendment that would restrict leachate plants to dump property and prohibit the use of pipelines to move leachate under or over streets. The hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Aug. 18.

Henry Terashita, community development director of Monterey Park, said the measure would thwart any proposal to build the plant north of the freeway on a 45-acre site that was the subject of a dispute between the EPA and Monterey Park earlier this year.

Agreed to Sell Land

The owners of Operating Industries also own the 45 acres and had agreed to a plan by the state and Monterey Park under which the land would have been sold for redevelopment and the proceeds channeled to dump cleanup.

But the EPA said the 45 acres might be more contaminated than state and city studies had indicated and insisted on putting the property on the federal Superfund list, indefinitely postponing, if not killing, the redevelopment project.

Terashita said the EPA is considering transporting leachate in a pipeline from the 135-acre dump over the freeway to a treatment plant on the 45 acres. He said that plan would endanger motorists on the freeway.

"Any failure of the pipe over the freeway would be disastrous," he said.

However, Hank Yoshitake of Montebello, chairman of the Homeowners to Eliminate Landfill Problems, a group that fought to close the landfill, said that all sorts of pipelines carry gas and other things more hazardous than leachate and that if the plant must be built, it should be on the 45 acres.

Keith Takata, branch chief with the EPA regional office in San Francisco, said that studies getting under way now will determine whether a leachate plant should be built, as well as its size and location.

The location study will look at the problems connected with piping leachate across the freeway, he said, adding that public reaction will be sought before any decision is made.

He said the EPA should have a proposal ready for public reaction some time this fall.

The state Department of Health Services is paying about $1,500 a day to haul leachate to a treatment plant in Vernon. The volume of leachate, which has exceeded 30,000 gallons a day in the past, averaged 5,400 gallons a day in June, the latest month for which figures are available.

Plant May Not Be Needed

Terashita said the decline indicates that a treatment plant may be unnecessary.

But Takata said the amount of leachate being collected may not reflect the amount of leachate on the site because the collection system may be inadequate.

Takata said the EPA is increasing environmental controls and undertaking studies to find out what problems the dump presents so that it can devise a clean-up program.

The dump was closed in 1984 amid complaints of odors and other problems.

Some Contamination

The danger from leachate is that it could work its way to ground water and contaminate wells. Takata said there is already some evidence of ground-water contamination from the dump, but the extent of the problem is unknown.

Monterey Park officials and homeowners near the dump have urged the EPA to continue trucking leachate from the dump rather than build a treatment plant.

Takata said that hauling leachate away is a satisfactory solution environmentally, but it might be cheaper to install a plant. The costs cannot be weighed, he said, until studies determine how much leachate and ground water needs to be collected and treated.

Monterey Park City Manager Lloyd de Llamas said the city fears the EPA will build a plant and use it to treat leachate not only from the Monterey Park dump but from other sites as well.

But Takata said that he can assure the city that any treatment plant would be devoted only to leachate from the Operating Industries dump and would be dismantled after the dump is cleaned up.

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