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2nd Incident of Toxic Dumping Under Scrutiny

February 12, 1987|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

A second company has been billed, this time for $45,000, for dumping flammable hazardous waste in the Puente Hills landfill in an incident that is under investigation by the county Department of Health Services.

Ray Huitric, supervising civil engineer with the county Sanitation Districts, which operate the landfill, said the dumping of two large loads of hazardous material at Puente Hills within three weeks is "a coincidence" that does not mean the landfill is facing an increased danger of illegal dumping.

Huitric said the companies that dumped the waste have been billed for the cost of removing it and investigations are under way that could lead to charges being filed by the district attorney's office.

Investigation Underway

Miguel Garcia, industrial hygienist with the county Department of Health Services, said his department is investigating the latest incident, in which Goodwill Disposal Co. of Los Angeles unloaded 61 55-gallon drums of a hazardous liquid at the landfill.

Garcia said he could not discuss details of the investigation but that both the waste hauler and the generator are responsible for waste disposal.

Huitric said the drums aroused suspicion of landfill employees when they were unloaded on Nov. 29 because they were labeled "caustic."

Tests showed that the drums contained styrene resin, which is used in the manufacture of synthetic rubber and plastics, he said. International Technology Corp. was hired to dispose of the material, which was hauled to the nearest licensed hazardous-waste dump, in Santa Barbara County.

Huitric said the Sanitation Districts have no authority to levy fines for illegal dumping but can refer cases to regulatory agencies.

Probe of Prior Incident

The district attorney's office is investigating an incident on Nov. 12 in which Palley Supply Co. allegedly brought toxic waste to the landfill. William Carter, deputy district attorney in the environmental crimes units, said he is awaiting laboratory test results before deciding whether to file charges.

The California Highway Patrol has recommended that charges be filed against the company for hauling canisters of calcium hydride and sodium hydroxide to the landfill. Calcium hydride is a flammable material used in making hydrogen for weather balloons. Sodium hydroxide is a caustic agent used in cleaning.

Palley Supply Co., a surplus sales company, has closed its business in Santa Fe Springs and company officials could not be reached for comment.

Richard Agajanian, one of the owners of Goodwill Disposal Co., said he has told the Sanitation Districts everything he knows about the load of hazardous materials his company allegedly brought to the dump and he declined to discuss the incident with a reporter.

According to Huitric, Goodwill Disposal said it picked up the waste from a Los Angeles trucking company that has reportedly gone out of business.

Billed for Costs

The policy of the county Sanitation Districts is to bill waste haulers for costs incurred in disposing of hazardous materials brought to the dump. He said Palley Supply Co. has been billed $31,000 and some costs are still to be added.

He said small amounts of hazardous waste are detected routinely in trash trucks at the landfill, and that the loads are traced to companies responsible, which are billed for the cost of removing the hazardous materials.

Huitric said cases are then referred to regulatory agencies for further action, which can lead to filing of criminal charges.

Huitric said the volume of hazardous material brought to the landfill is small. Puente Hills is the county's largest landfill, taking up to 72,000 tons of trash a week. Huitric said the amount of hazardous waste is believed to be in the range of 10 to 100 parts per million.

Equipment operators at the landfill are trained to screen waste as it is unloaded, Huitric said. County health department inspectors are stationed at the site to examine and conduct field tests on materials thought to be hazardous.

Random Inspections

In addition, Huitric said, each day inspectors pick five trash trucks at random, unload their trash on the ground and check for hazardous materials.

The Sanitation Districts began screening trash for hazardous materials three years ago shortly before the BKK landfill in West Covina stopped taking hazardous waste, leaving Los Angeles County without any disposal site.

Huitric said hazardous waste requires special handling and one of the dangers of disposing it at Puente Hills is fire. A bulldozer might strike a drum of flammable material, for example, and a fire could begin, he said.

In addition, he said, hazardous materials could endanger health and the environment by emitting fumes or seeping into ground water, but Puente Hills has environmental controls in place to handle any inadvertent disposal of hazardous materials, Huitric said.

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