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Cities to Hear Proposal to Haul Trash by Rail

April 21, 1988|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

A committee of elected officials in the San Gabriel Valley will recommend tonight that valley cities begin creating a system to haul trash by rail to remote disposal sites in order to overcome a shortage of landfills in the 1990s.

The first step recommended by the committee, headed by West Covina Councilwoman Nancy Manners, would be to ask the county Sanitation Districts to draft a document that would invite contractors to submit rail-haul proposals.

Manners said the cities should "look for a contractor to pull everything together," providing a system to load and carry trash on trains to remote areas where the trash could be buried, burned or recycled.

The committee's recommendation is based on a $135,000 rail-haul feasibility study that was undertaken for the San Gabriel Valley Assn. of Cities by the Southern California Assn. of Governments, a regional planning agency. The committee's recommendation and the study will be presented to the San Gabriel Valley association of 28 cities at 7 tonight at Reuben's restaurant in West Covina.

Potential Solution

The study concludes that rail-hauling trash is "technically feasible and offers the San Gabriel Valley a potential solution to the solid waste disposal crisis projected for the 1990s."

The study suggests that cities interested in the rail-haul concept could form a joint powers agency or work through the county Sanitation Districts. Manners said the committee believes that it would be better to use the Sanitation Districts, since they already have expertise in trash disposal. The districts, which are governed by city and county officials, operate several landfills, including Puente Hills near Hacienda Heights and Spadra in Pomona.

Duarte Councilman Terry Michaelis, a committee member, said the two key difficulties in creating a rail-haul system are obtaining a disposal site in a remote area and finding a location in the San Gabriel Valley where the trash can be loaded onto trains.

The feasibility study says "the most promising site" for a loading yard is a 36-acre area in the City of Industry that lies east of Brea Canyon Road and is bordered by the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific railroad tracks. But, the study notes, the site is near a residential area in Walnut that could produce opposition.

Disposal Sites

Michaelis said one way to overcome opposition would be to load trash into containers at existing landfills and then truck the containers to rail lines for shipment.

The feasibility study identifies several potential disposal sites along rail lines in San Bernardino, Riverside, Imperial and Kern counties. The closest proposed site is the Morongo Indian Reservation near Cabazon, less than 70 miles from the San Gabriel Valley. The most distant site is near Blythe, about 300 miles away.

Former Walnut Mayor Harvey Holden, who organized the rail-haul study as chairman of the San Gabriel Valley city association's solid waste management task force, said the potential revenue could make the project attractive to officials in remote areas.

Cities or counties that take the trash could charge a royalty for disposal. If the rail-haul system transported 5,000 tons of trash a day, a royalty of $2 per ton would yield $10,000 a day. Holden said politicians in remote areas might readily welcome that kind of revenue to solve their budget problems as long as the disposal site was not near homes and did not damage the environment.

Financially Possible

Committee member Thomas Harvey, a La Verne councilman, said the feasibility study shows that rail-haul is financially possible.

He said many people thought shipping trash from the San Gabriel Valley to remote areas would raise homeowners' cost for garbage collection to $30 a month or more. Instead, the study suggests that a waste-by-rail system could be financed by increasing trash collection rates from the current average of $9.35 a month to between $12.50 and $14.50.

The study also suggests that rail-haul disposal could be cheaper than building a local waste incineration plant.

Public opposition to waste-to-energy plants on environmental grounds led city officials to begin a serious exploration of rail-haul alternatives.

Harvey said county officials have concluded that existing landfills are nearing capacity and that there will be no place to put trash in the 1990s unless the landfills are expanded, new landfills are opened or some other alternative is found.

"The landfills are going to close down in 1991 or 1992," Harvey said. "The question is, where are we going to send the trash?"

'Very Real Solution'

He said that while recycling, composting and other trash disposal methods will also be necessary, "I am convinced that (rail-haul) is a very real solution."

Harvey said he was skeptical about rail-haul when he joined the committee because he doubted that anyone would be willing to take trash from the San Gabriel Valley. But, he noted, the study has found that there are landowners, corporations and others who see potential profit in taking the trash.

Another committee member, Covina Councilman Henry Morgan, said San Gabriel Valley residents would be willing to pay extra money to ship their trash outside the area. And, he said, what happens to the trash after that will be up to the areas that agree to receive it.

"I don't care if they burn it, make Gumby dolls or bury it," Morgan said.

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