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Neighbors Raise a Stink Over Plans for Composting Facility

May 01, 1988|JAY GOLDMAN | Times Staff Writer

A proposal to build an innovative garbage-processing plant on airport land near Playa del Rey is opposed by some nearby residents who fear that the facility would create offensive odors and reduce property values.

City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter has drawn fire for supporting the commissioning of a $200,000 environmental impact report that would examine a proposed 20-acre "co-composting" garbage processing plant at Imperial Highway and Pershing Drive.

An aide to Galanter said her office had considered a site at Sandpiper Street and Pershing Drive but rejected it because it is too close to residential areas.

The proposed $50-million plant would recycle marketable materials such as glass and metal and mix organic refuse with animal manure to form a compost to be sold by the operator of the plant.

'Garbage Crisis'

Galanter press deputy Rick Ruiz said the plant, if built, would reduce the amount of garbage trucked to landfills and lessen the area's "garbage crisis."

"This is only one small step towards solving the overall solid waste crisis, and it is a crisis," Ruiz said. "We will be producing more trash than we can bury by 1991, and by 1995 we will be completely out of landfill space."

Ruiz said an enclosed plant can be built that would process 800 tons of the 6,000 tons of garbage the city collects daily. Filters would prevent odors from leaving the plant. And garbage trucks would not be routed through residential Playa del Rey, he said.

But some residents said Galanter should not consider locating the plant near the seaside community.

"There is a great deal of rage about this in the community," said Jacqueline Aubry, a real estate agent and resident.

"Playa del Rey is a small but excellent community, and people don't want their property values decreased by a garbage plant there," she said.

Petitions Submitted

Aubry said she has presented Galanter with petitions signed by 350 people opposed to the plant.

The Playa del Rey Network, a community organization usually supportive of Galanter, will poll its 300 to 350 members before it takes a position for or against the proposal, board member Valerie Mattson said.

The network will adopt the position of a majority of its members.

"The hardest part about this issue" is that her organization may oppose Galanter for the first time, Mattson said.

"The people of Playa del Rey, from my personal perception, are very much opposed to (the co-composting plant)," she said.

"They don't care if it looks like the Lincoln Memorial; they don't want it in this area."

Ruiz said Galanter is urging the City Council to look at putting a plant near Playa del Rey because every part of the city must be willing to help deal with the impending shortage of landfill for the city's garbage.

'Has to Be Solution'

"She is taking some heat on this because it is important," he said. "It would be totally irresponsible not to pursue this. Even people who do not like the idea of a composting plant at Imperial and Pershing understand there has to be a solution to the solid waste problem."

Ruiz emphasized that if an environmental impact report concludes that the plant should not be located at the airport site, "we would have to look somewhere else."

Ruiz said about 30% of the garbage processed by the plant will be organic material that can be mixed with manure from stables and race tracks in the area to form a compost. The compost could be sold to developers who need fill material for construction sites or to governments and private individuals who can use it as fertilizer. This would reduce the need for landfill space.

But this innovative approach to the garbage problem may not work as planned, Playa del Rey resident William F. Garber said.

Visited Plants

Garber was assistant director of sanitation for the city of Los Angeles when he retired in 1985. A former chief engineer of the city's sewage treatment division, Garber has visited four co-composting plants in operation in Europe.

These plants have all had problems selling the compost they produce, Garber said. And all four plants have struggled to control rats and odors.

"A major problem everywhere is how to eliminate odors," he said. "Some do a fair job, but you do end up with odors."

And anywhere there is garbage, there will be rats, he said.

Garber said he isn't against the concept of a co-composting plant. But he suggested that such a plant be built at one of the existing landfills used by the city of Los Angeles.

"If you have it in a landfill, there is a buffer between the plant and the community," he said. And at landfills, "there are already controls for rats."

May Have to Bury

Another reason to locate a co-composting plant near a landfill is that the city may have to bury much of the compost it produces, he said.

Fertilizer produced at the European co-composting plants he toured was not cost-competitive with other fertilizers on the market, Garber said. The plants he inspected were able to sell only 15% to 25% of the compost they produced.

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