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BKK Wins Court Test on Wilmington Plant

August 24, 1986|DEAN MURPHY | Times Staff Writer

A proposed hazardous-waste treatment plant that BKK Corp. plans to build in southeast Wilmington could be operating in 18 to 24 months.

That assessment came last week from BKK President Ken Kazarian just days after the state Supreme Court handed his company its third and most decisive legal victory in its four-year quest to build the controversial facility.

With only Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird dissenting, the court refused to hear an appeal by Wilmington residents who had sued to block construction of the plant.

"This decision makes us feel good," Kazarian said. "There is no doubt in our minds that the direction in this industry is going to be facilities like our Wilmington plant."

The Harbor Coalition Against Toxic Waste, a group of residents opposed to the plant, sued BKK and the city of Los Angeles in February, 1984, claiming that the company's environmental impact report on the project was inadequate.

The coalition argued that the report failed to discuss the plant's effects on nearby schools and homes, and did not assess the impact of dumping waste water from the plant into local sewers that empty into Los Angeles Harbor through the city's Terminal Island Treatment Plant.

Waste Treatment Process

The proposed plant, which would accept up to 87 truckloads of liquid hazardous waste per day from industries in Los Angeles County, would reduce the waste during treatment to about 16 truckloads of dry residue and several hundred thousand gallons of effluent. The dry residue would be trucked to a hazardous-waste site outside the area, and the effluent would be dumped into local sewers for treatment.

In July, 1984, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that the environmental impact report, which had been required by the Los Angeles City Council, was valid. In May of this year, a three-member state Court of Appeal panel upheld that ruling. The coalition appealed to the Supreme Court.

While acknowledging that the battle is all but lost, Jo Ann Wysocki, president of the coalition, said the group will make one last attempt to block the plant when a public hearing is held by the state Department of Health Services, which must issue an operational permit to BKK before the treatment facility can open.

"We are going all out for the operational hearing," said Wysocki, who last week delivered 125 letters to the Department of Health Services from Wilmington residents asking that the hearing be held in their community. "We recognize that this is the last chance for us."

'Lack of Local Control'

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, who represents Wilmington, also pledged last week to continue her opposition. Flores has objected to the proposed plant because of what one of her deputies called the "lack of local control." Flores wants assurances that the plant will treat wastes only from industries in the harbor area and that trucks carrying toxic wastes to the facility will not pass through Wilmington's business and residential areas.

"We are disappointed that the proposed treatment facility is closer to reality while none of the issues that we have been concerned about have been addressed," Flores said.

John Hinton, who handles permits for the state Department of Health Services, said BKK submitted a permit application several years ago before the Harbor Coalition sued. Hinton said once the application is updated, his office will review it and schedule a public hearing. He said he is "99% certain" that the hearing will be held in Wilmington "because of the nature of the concern in the community."

Kazarian said BKK, which is based in Torrance, favors holding the hearing in Wilmington, and he predicted that the company will have no problem in getting the permit. "We have tried very hard from the beginning to address everybody's concerns," he said. "I don't see any surprises. We see any changes now as fine tuning."

Applications Rarely Denied

Hinton said the department rarely denies applications because any problems with them are generally detected by the department during its preliminary review, giving the applicant the opportunity to make changes before a public hearing.

"Normally, the applications and the facilities are such that we don't deny them," he said.

BKK also must obtain several permits from various other government agencies before it can build the treatment plant. Kazarian said the company applied for most of the permits--which are required to meet such things as air quality, sewage and fire regulations--several years ago. BKK will update those permits within the next 30 days, he said.

"Based on where we were before we got tied up in court, under the best of circumstances it would be 18 to 24 months until the plant would be operating," Kazarian said. Kazarian said BKK chose the Wilmington location, a four-acre site near the Terminal Island Freeway and the Long Beach city boundary, because most of the hazardous waste produced in the county comes from the South Bay and the Los Angeles-Long Beach harbor areas.

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