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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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."