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Residents Still Uneasy Despite Dump Report

December 14, 1986|RICHARD HOLGUIN | Times Staff Writer

MONTEBELLO — Residents living near a hazardous-waste landfill in Monterey Park told state and county officials last week that they are still concerned about health problems caused by the dump, despite a recently released study that downplayed serious medical problems.

The findings of the study on the effects of pollution from the Operating Industries Inc. landfill were presented at a community meeting of 80 area residents at Schurr High School Thursday night.

The study--conducted in 1984 and released last month--concluded that residents living downwind of the site were two to four times more likely to have complained of headaches, eye irritations, sore throats, nausea, trouble sleeping and feeling tired.

No Abnormal Levels

But the study also concluded that there were no abnormal levels of cancer, liver disease, birth defects or other serious health problems.

Residents at the community meeting questioned the effectiveness of the study because only one of every three houses was polled, while every house in the control area was queried.

"Taking a sample in no way invalidates what we did," said Kenneth Satin, an epidemiologist with the state health department.

Satin said it would have been too expensive to poll every house in the study area, but added that if the survey had included every house on streets closest to the dump, "we probably would have seen higher rates of illness."

Satin said 150 adults and 25 to 50 children in the study area had more health problems than expected when compared to the control area in Hacienda Heights. While the study concluded that those problems cannot be directly linked to the dump, Satin said, the evidence was strong that they are linked.

Hank Yoshitake, chairman of Homeowners to Eliminate Landfill Problems, asked for more study on the reported cancer cases, another overall health study in five years and establishment of a hot line for residents to report medical problems.

Satin said the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Tumor Registry is studying the cancer cases and will determine whether they are related to the dump. That report should be complete in February or March, he said.

Dr. Paul Papanek, chief of epidemiology for the county Health Department, said that although a formal hot line would not be established, questions regarding the effects of the dump would be handled by the department.

Cleanup Years Away

Residents and officials also expressed concern about the need to clean up the dump.

"The sooner we get it cleaned up, the more we will be minimizing the risk," Montebello Mayor William Molinari said.

A U. S. Environmental Protection Agency representative in the audience said actual cleanup of the dump is still three to four years away.

EPA contractors are only performing maintenance--trucking leachate from the site and reinforcing slopes to confine hazardous materials to the site, said Alexis Strauss, chief of enforcement with the EPA San Francisco office. She said the EPA would focus its effort on the leachate and waste-gas collection in 1987.

The landfill was closed in late 1984 after accepting residential and industrial waste since 1948. The dump, which spreads over about 180 acres, is on the EPA's Superfund list as a priority site for the cleanup of hazardous waste.

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