Faced with conflicting assertions about whether expansion of an Azusa dump threatens to pollute ground water, the Regional Water Quality Control Board in Los Angeles this week delayed a decision on a new permit for the landfill until February.
William Anderson, an attorney for the Azusa Land Reclamation Co., told the board Monday that contaminants found in ground water near the company's dump on Gladstone Street do not come from trash buried there but from sources north of the property.
And he assured the board that trash can be buried in new sections of the dump without leaking contaminants into ground water. He said the company plans to line the disposal area with clay and install a collection system to capture liquids from the buried trash.
But Linn Magoffin, chairman of the Main San Gabriel Basin Watermaster board, said "virtually all the water agencies in the San Gabriel Valley are opposed to this expansion" of the dump. He said he doubts that a clay liner would keep trash from seeping through porous soil. The dump is in a sand and gravel pit that is being mined by Transit Mixed Concrete Co.
"The area is so porous that anything that enters into the ground can go right down," Magoffin said.
The issue before the regional board is whether to authorize Azusa Land Reclamation Co. to bury trash on 220 acres adjoining its current 80-acre disposal area, which will be full in about two years.
The staff of the state Regional Water Quality Control Board recommended that the permit be granted with a long list of conditions to monitor the site and protect ground water.
But after water industry leaders submitted objections, both the staff and board members suggested a delay to give them time to review the information presented Monday.
Paul D. Flowers, vice chairman of the nine-member board, said he was impressed by the objections to the dump. "Based on what I've heard, I would vote against it," he said.
Another board member, Dan W. Walker, a Torrance councilman, said he would insist that ground water be protected no matter what the cost to the dump. "Our responsibility is not to hold down the cost of dumping garbage but to protect the water quality," he said.
Larry Zarian, a board member and Glendale councilman, noted that the area is running out of places to dispose of garbage. Therefore, he said, he hopes that safeguards can be found to keep the Azusa landfill operating. He suggested that the regional board's staff should "act as a catalyst to bring the two sides together."
After the board meeting, Robert Berlien, general manager of the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District, said it "is very doubtful" that any plan allowing the dump to expand would be acceptable to water producers.
Berlien conceded that there is no proof that contaminants from the dump have invaded ground water, but he said many water producers "feel that landfills are a source of ground-water contamination." And he noted that the Azusa dump sits atop one of the four areas of ground-water pollution in the San Gabriel Valley that have been designated for cleanup by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund.
Berlien said water wells near the Azusa dump show a high concentration of minerals--up to 1,000 parts per million of total dissolved solids, compared with 350 parts per million at the average well elsewhere in the San Gabriel Valley. The high mineral content does not pose a health danger, Berlien said, but it does make the water "harder," requiring, for example, more soap to create suds.
The ground-water pollution problem that has qualified the San Gabriel Valley for Superfund cleanup money involves chlorinated hydrocarbons that are used as solvents and degreasers. The ground water in the Azusa-Baldwin Park area is contaminated with trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), both suspected carcinogens.
Anderson, a Washington attorney who specializes in environmental problems, told the regional water board that studies undertaken for Azusa Land Reclamation Co. show that TCE and PCE have leaked into the water north of the dump. He said ground water moves south and southwest through the area, and the fact that wells north of the disposal site are heavily contaminated indicates that the source of the problem is to the north.
Anderson said the company drilled holes into buried trash, found and drew out liquid for analysis and did not find either TCE or PCE. The conclusion, he said, is that "the landfill is not the source of the contaminants."
Berlien said the Environmental Protection Agency has spent $5 million in the San Gabriel Valley trying to determine the extent of ground-water contamination but has not yet arrived at any conclusions about the sources.