WEST COVINA — Regulatory agencies have authorized BKK Corp. to fill new areas of its West Covina landfill so that it can remain open and avert a potential waste-disposal crisis for Los Angeles County, company and state officials announced Wednesday.
Angelo Bellomo, chief of the Southern California section of the state Health Department's toxic substances division, said the decision will keep the landfill operating as usual until hearings can be held in November to determine whether the height of the trash-disposal area should be raised.
BKK President Kenneth Kazarian said the decision will allow the dump to continue accepting about 6,000 tons of trash a day without violating the existing height limit.
Kazarian last month asked state and federal regulators to raise the height limit to allow BKK to bury an additional 40 feet of trash. He said that unless the limit was lifted, BKK soon would run out of room to receive trash.
However, Bellomo and Kazarian said, regulators and BKK engineers were able to find areas where disposal can continue without violating the height limit.
Bellomo said trash can be put in small sloped areas, called "sliver fills." In addition, he said, BKK can extend the toe of an existing disposal area.
This alternative, approved by both the state Health Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency staffs, will enable regulators to defer the height-limit decision until after hearings next month on BKK's plan to close its toxic-waste disposal area, Bellomo said.
BKK was one of the nation's largest disposal sites for toxic waste until environmental problems that surfaced in 1984 forced the company to limit disposal to ordinary household trash and commercial waste.
Since then the company has been burying ordinary waste on top of toxic materials while developing a plan to close the toxic area and shift disposal operations to another part of the landfill.
Regulators had imposed temporary height limits on the disposal area, pending approval of a final closure plan. Bellomo said regulators thought the temporary limits were high enough to permit uninterrupted dumping until the closure plan was adopted, but preparation and adoption of the plan has taken longer than expected.
The EPA is tentatively planning to conduct hearings on the closure plan in mid-November but has not set an exact date.
BKK engineers and some critics have offered differing views on the environmental impact of adding more trash to the current disposal area. BKK engineers say that the additional trash, incorporating an elaborate system to collect landfill gas, will make it more difficult for gas to rise to the surface. Critics worry that the weight of the trash will squeeze out liquids underneath, raising a threat of ground-water contamination.
BKK is seeking permission to shift disposal operations to another part of the landfill that does not have toxic waste but approval is not expected until next spring. The company plans to close the landfill entirely within nine years.
BKK takes about one-seventh of the 42,000 tons of trash generated countywide every day. Officials of the county Sanitation Districts said limitations on disposal at BKK would exacerbate a landfill capacity shortage that is already forcing the county's largest landfill, Puente Hills, to close early.