The El Segundo City Council has balked at approving plans for the expansion of the Hyperion Sewage Treatment Plant, insisting that the City of Los Angeles first control odors and noise at the plant before permitting expansion of the facility.
Citing a "history of bad communication with Los Angeles," Mayor Jack Siadek postponed a decision by the council and continued indefinitely a public hearing on the matter. The council said it wanted Los Angeles to solve problems that have plagued El Segundo residents for years.
Summing up the frustrations of more than 40 residents at the meeting, Siadek said: "We've heard the promises. We need more than good faith, we need good performance."
The plant, which is just inside Los Angeles city limits, is operated by the City of Los Angeles. The planned expansion, which would be built partly in El Segundo, would increase by 25% the primary treatment capacity of the facility. The plant now treats about 400 million gallons of sewage daily but suffers breakdowns and overflows.
Walter Naydo, an assistant engineer of waste-water systems at the Los Angeles Department of Public Works, said that for the city to reduce its sludge dumping as required under the California Ocean Plan by 1991, it is "critical for the (conditional-use) permit to be approved within 100 days."
The city is also under a federal court order to upgrade the plant by 1998 so that all waste receives both primary and secondary treatment. Some waste is treated only once before being flushed into the ocean.
Although the proposed construction site is owned by the City of Los Angeles, the Department of Public Works is required to get approval from the El Segundo City Council.
Naydo said that although "there was an inkling" that the proposal might run into some opposition from the council, the delay in approving the permit "has come as a surprise." Naydo said he will "work with the city manager . . . to see what kind of thing we could work out" to accommodate the council's concerns.
At least a dozen El Segundo residents spoke at the three-hour hearing, venting their anger at representatives of the Department of Public Works. Emphasizing what they called a continual lack of response from Los Angeles officials, many speakers suggested that El Segundo use the expansion as a bargaining chip to get Los Angeles to install better controls at the plant.
"The best performance bond we could ask them for is to get rid of the smell," said Doug Summers, a resident of El Segundo for 15 years.
The conditional-use permit was approved last month by the El Segundo Planning Commission would give the Department of Public Works permission to construct retaining walls and part of a new primary sedimentation tank within the city limits of El Segundo.
The permit would also allow site grading and the construction of retaining walls in the southeast corner of the plant for future expansion of its secondary treatment capabilities.
Because the proposed construction site is in an area that has been designated as open space, the Planning Commission was required to submit the project to the City Council for approval before the permit could be issued, according to Lynn Harris, city planning director.
Harris told the council that although environmental approval of the expansion was given by state and federal authorities more than 11 years ago, the commission had reviewed the project in light of more current environmental requirements and found that they could allow the plant to expand in the area previously zoned to remain undeveloped by including several mitigating measures in the permit.
Besides controlling the smell, the council also asked that the city eliminate vibration that has been felt in neighboring homes since six new methane gas burners were installed at the sewage plant. Gary Cardamone, a construction manager at the plant, said the city has been trying to correct the problem.
Some additional controls that were suggested at the meeting were to limit construction to between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., to reduce dust and noise as much as possible and to impose fines if the conditions agreed upon were not met.