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Energy-Plant Cutback Puts Western Waste in Long-Term Bind

May 14, 1987|GEORGE STEIN | Times Staff Writer

The decision to sharply reduce the size of a proposed waste-to-energy plant in the San Gabriel Valley poses a long-term dilemma for Carson-based Western Waste Industries, which had been counting on exporting 2,000 tons of trash a day from the South Bay to the proposed facility in Irwindale.

Western Waste, which collects garbage from Carson, Inglewood, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Palos Verdes Estates, had hoped it could send at least some of the trash to the proposed plant to ease the increasing demand on the county's few available landfills.

But Pacific Waste Management Corp., which wants to build the Irwindale plant, revised its plan after the state Energy Commission dismissed its application to build the plant last month. Pacific Waste then canceled its agreement with Western Waste.

Western Waste dumps garbage in county landfills in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys and says it will continue to transport its waste there for the time being.

But along with other trash firms, Western Waste is searching for a solution to the disposal problem that will occur when space runs out at the four county and six private landfills in Los Angeles County, said Richard Haft, vice president of Western Waste.

"I don't think any of us are affected by Irwindale in the short term," Haft said, but "eventually, there will be a crunch."

"It will go (to landfills) until there is no more room and then it is a question of what the city (Los Angeles) and the county will do when there is no more space," Haft said.

Landfill Closed in 1980

No landfills have operated in the South Bay since 1980, when the Palos Verdes landfill on Hawthorne Boulevard was closed.

Steve Maguin, head of the Solid Waste Department of the county Sanitation Districts, confirmed that the existing landfills are running out of space. He said that unless additional permits are granted, all the landfills will be closed within six years.

"The permitted capacity will be exhausted. Additional capacity exists but will require additional permits," Maguin said.

Expanding existing landfills "would be a stopgap measure," said Gerald Perissi, assistant manager of Browning-Ferris Industries of California, which collects trash in Hermosa Beach, Lawndale, Rolling Hills Estates and Rolling Hills.

Browning-Ferris also dumps trash in county landfills in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys and at the privately owned BKK landfill in West Covina, Perissi said.

"It is about time someone looked at the situation because it is pretty dismal. There is going to be a shortage around the turn of the decade," he said.

Strong Opposition Voiced

Maguin said that finding new landfill sites in Los Angeles County is difficult because of environmental considerations, the lack of undeveloped land and strong opposition from residents and city governments.

"No one wants to put it in the Westside of Los Angeles. It is going to have to go somewhere," Haft said.

He said it might be possible to find a site for a new landfill or waste-to-energy plant in a neighboring county. "You can't site a landfill in an area near any homes. You have to site them in an area that is geologically safe."

He said that any new landfill would have to be surrounded by a buffer zone to keep residential development away from the site.

Many in the trash disposal business had hoped that waste-to-energy plants might provide a solution to the trash disposal problem. But both the Irwindale project and the proposed Lancer trash-to-energy incinerator in South-Central Los Angeles have run into strong local opposition.

The Los Angeles City Council has tentatively approved the $235-million Lancer project, which would be located near 41st Street and Alameda Avenue, and has directed officials to find sites for two similar incinerators in the Westside and the San Fernando Valley.

Draft Report Released

Sanitation officials from the city of Los Angeles recently released a draft report on public-health risks which concluded that the Lancer plant would be the safest trash incinerator in the country and are waiting for comment before a final report is prepared.

Meanwhile, Assembly members Sally Tanner (D-El Monte) and Terry B. Friedman (D-Tarzana) have proposed a number of bills in the Legislature that would make it more difficult for firms to collect trash in one area and dump it in another.

Tanner, whose district is in the heavily polluted San Gabriel Valley, estimates that about two-thirds of the county's trash is dumped in the San Gabriel Valley.

Tanner's so-called "fair share" garbage bill (AB 223) would require county and state officials to determine which county areas take in more garbage than they generate and come up with a plan to distribute the waste equitably.

Another Tanner bill (AB 222) would create "sensitive" zones in the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys, where ozone pollution is particularly bad, and would make it more difficult to gain permission to build garbage incineration plants there.

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