WEST COVINA — A majority of the commission created to monitor the closing of the BKK landfill has expressed concern about health and traffic problems that could result if a proposed $500-million development adjacent to the dump is approved.
Four of the five members of the Transition/Waste Management Commission also indicated in interviews last week that they are worried that the panel may be disbanded before it has a chance to play an official role in the decision to build the project.
"Are they really going to have that place under control where people can work there eight hours a day?" asked Commissioner Nancy E. Adin.
Odor Not Under Control
"It seems like a good idea, but I don't think they have the odor (coming from the dump) under control," she said.
Another commissioner, Louis Gilbert, said that he was opposed to any plan to build houses near the dump.
"I'd have to have very compelling evidence that the (landfill) and the whole adjacent area is perfectly safe, and I don't think that's possible," he said.
A third commissioner, Richard Shockcor, said that "we want the development for our city to bring in tax revenue, but it has to be done safely."
Like the others, he voiced concerns that the commission will not have a say in how the land is developed.
A company hired by West Covina and Walnut to create a master plan for the 1,207 acres, including the landfill, owned by BKK Corp. in the two cities recommended on Aug. 6 at a joint meeting of the Planning and Transition/Waste Management commissions that expensive homes, restaurants, a golf course, offices and a hotel be built on the property.
Proposed Open Space
Under the proposal, much of the 583-acre dump, including all of the area where toxic waste is buried, would become landscaped open space. The other land would be used for a variety of purposes, but the hotel and homes would be kept at least 2,000 feet from the dump.
The commission was created by the City Council in May, 1984, shortly before 21 families were forced to evacuate their homes after explosive levels of landfill gas were found near their homes.
Since that time, the city has been working with BKK to reach accord on steps to control odors, avoid ground water contamination and prevent gas leaks from the dump.
BKK voluntarily stopped accepting hazardous waste in November, 1984, and a year later agreed to close the landfill to all dumping within 10 years.
The commission has served primarily as an intermediary with state and federal regulatory agencies and also has acted as a sounding board for community complaints about the dump.
Commissioners said they became concerned about the panel's future when they heard rumors that the council was thinking of phasing it out after the closure plan was approved.
Now that a development proposal has been made, the four commission members said that they are not sure what role they will play and said they want the council to remove the word "transition" from the panel's title.
The fifth commissioner, Richard Lewis, could not be reached for comment.
"That landfill will outlive me and probably outlive my kids," said Commissioner George W. Tracy Jr.
"I don't see us lasting that long," Adin said. "I think they'd (the council members) love to get rid of us because we brought up some difficult points."
Several council members said that concerns about the commission's future role are premature, but one, Kenneth Chappell, said he does not think the commission will play a major role in future development at the site.
The commission, he said, is responsible only for "transition from a landfill to no landfill."
Mayor Chester E. Shearer and Councilwoman Nancy Manners said they do not think the commission will be dissolved before plans for the site are completed.
Shearer pointed out that the commission's main job, that of monitoring the dump as it is closed, is far from over.
"If anyone is concerned about some other issue, it might make doing their job difficult," he said.
When asked to comment on the concerns raised by the commissioners, BKK Corp. President Ken Kazarian said that it is too early to be concerned with details because the proposed development is merely a proposal at this stage.
But he said that the commissioners have confused their roles. "Their job was to get us to do what we're doing," he said, that is, closing the dump.
Tracy and Adin suggested that the land might better be used for a park than for commercial development and had urged that BKK donate some of the land to the city.
Kazarian said that BKK has "given quite a lot already" in agreeing to close the dump in 10 years rather than the 20 it could be expected to continue to operate.
But Adin said that "people in the area have suffered tremendously because of BKK, and I think BKK should give something back, really give something back."
Tracy said he would like to see BKK donate some of its land to expand Galster Wilderness Park, which abuts the BKK property.
One of his major concerns is that if the proposed development generates 6,000 jobs as predicted, traffic would become a problem.
"A traffic study was one of the things that was lacking in the plan," Tracy said.