MONTEREY PARK — City officials have conceded defeat in their fight to stop the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency from building a plant to treat leachate from the Operating Industries landfill on a site north of the Pomona Freeway.
David Bentz, interim city manager, told the City Council this week that he is convinced that EPA intends to put both a leachate treatment plant and a gas recovery system on the site where Monterey Park has envisioned a major commercial complex.
Bentz said he drew that conclusion after a meeting with EPA officials this week, which was also attended by officials from the state Department of Health Services and the City of Montebello.
"We're going to have these facilities whether we want to or not," Bentz said.
Michele Dermer, remedial project manager with the EPA regional office in San Francisco, said the only decision being made now involves a plant to treat leachate, which is liquid from the dump.
She said the proposed decision, to be announced Monday, declares that construction of a leachate treatment plant is necessary and that it will be built on the north side of the freeway. She said the decision specifies that the plant be used only for leachate generated by the Monterey Park landfill and cannot be used to treat leachate imported from other sites.
A pipeline would be built to carry leachate over or, more likely, under the freeway from the 145-acre portion of the dump on the south side to the 45-acre portion on the north side.
Dermer said the decision to build the plant, which was originally scheduled to become final in September, was delayed to give Monterey Park and Montebello time to review the data supporting the need for the plant. Since then, she said, the cities have reviewed and accepted the figures used by the EPA to arrive at its decision.
Between 4,000 and 6,000 gallons of leachate are being hauled by truck daily from the landfill to a treatment plant seven miles away in Vernon. Dermer said it would be cheaper to build a $1.8-million plant and treat leachate on the site. The EPA estimates the savings at $11 million over 30 years.
Dermer said studies are under way to determine what to do with the gas that is generated at the dump as trash decomposes. The gas is now being collected and burned. One possibility, Dermer said, would be to build a plant that would burn the gas to generate electricity. Such a plant could be installed next to the leachate plant, she said, but the decision on what to do with landfill gas will not be made for another year.
The Operating Industries dump, which was closed in 1984, is on the federal Superfund list and is being cleaned up under EPA supervision.
The Monterey Park Redevelopment Agency has proposed a $60-million commercial complex on the 45 acres north of the freeway, which had not been used for dumping since the 1950s.
Bentz said the agency may still be able to develop the property even if the EPA puts both the gas recovery and the leachate plants there. The two plants together would require about 4.5 acres, he said, leaving the remainder open to development once it has been cleaned up and removed from the Superfund list.
EPA studies to determine the amount of contamination in the 45 acres are under way, and findings will be released in March.
The location of the leachate treatment plant has been an issue between Monterey Park and Montebello. Although the entire landfill is in Monterey Park, the homes nearest to it are in Montebello on the south side of the freeway, and both Montebello and the homeowners have argued that the plant should be north of the freeway.
But Monterey Park officials have contended that if the plant must be built, it should be south of the freeway so that leachate does not have to be piped across.
Monterey Park Councilman Barry L. Hatch said he "can't find fault with EPA" for its decision because Monterey Park officials have been "arrogant" in their dealings with the agency. But Councilman G. Monty Manibog said Monterey Park officials have tried to present their case to the EPA, but it is obvious that "the lobby from Montebello is much stronger."
BUILDING A LEACHATE PLANT
Leachate is the often toxic liquid produced when rainwater seeps through decomposing trash.
The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to build a $1.8-million plant at the Operating Industries landfill to treat leachate, which is now trucked elsewhere. The EPA says the plant would save $11 million over 30 years.
The landfill is in Monterey Park, but the nearest homes are in Montebello. The two cities disagree over where the leachate plant, and a possible second plant to burn landfill gas, should be located.
Monterey Park wants the plants to be built on the 145 acres of landfill south of the Pomona Freeway. Montebello and the EPA want them on the 45 acres north of the freeway, which Monterey Park has earmarked for commercial development. The plants would take up a total of 4.5 acres.