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Idea to Ship Trash to Desert Sites Endorsed

May 29, 1988|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

San Gabriel Valley city officials voted Thursday to ask the county Sanitation Districts to investigate the feasibility of shipping trash to the desert for disposal.

The action was taken by directors of the San Gabriel Valley Assn. of Cities to create an option for disposing of trash when local dumps reach capacity and are forced to close.

The resolution, recommended by the association's subcommittee on hauling trash by rail, asks the sanitation districts to evaluate the components of a rail system, such as disposal sites, loading points and costs. It also calls for the sanitation districts to become the lead agency in soliciting proposals from private companies.

Irwindale Councilman Robert Diaz voted against the resolution after failing to win approval of an amendment that would have recognized the right of any city to refuse to allow a trash transfer station to be placed within its boundaries. Diaz said his city wants to be assured that trash will not be loaded onto trains in Irwindale without the council's approval. Council members of other cities said there was no need to include the amendment because trash loading stations could not be established without city permits.

'Clean Up Our Own Acts'

Rosemead Mayor Robert Bruesch abstained from the vote. He said cities should be doing more with recycling "to clean up our own acts and our own back yards" instead of trying to export trash.

La Verne Councilman Thomas Harvey said, "Recycling is great, except that most of our residents don't want to do it." And while recycling should be encouraged, he said, other alternatives, such as shipment of trash by rail, also will be necessary to solve the waste disposal problem.

Other members of the 28-city association voted for the resolution, which Harvey emphasized does not commit the cities to a rail-haul plan, but provides a process for developing more information and eventually soliciting proposals.

Higher Costs Seen

A study done for the association by the Southern California Assn. of Governments concluded last month that it is technically feasible to ship trash from the San Gabriel Valley to the desert and said the idea is "a potential solution" to a trash crisis that could develop in the 1990s as dumps close.

The study concluded that a rail-haul system would raise garbage collection costs to homeowners by one-third to one-half. San Gabriel Valley residents pay an average of $9.35 a month to have their trash collected and hauled to nearby landfills. The study said rates would go up to $12.50 to $14.50 a month if trash were shipped by rail to remote disposal sites.

Steve Maguin, who heads the Sanitation Districts' solid waste management department, said cost estimates may change as more detailed plans for a rail-haul system are developed. He said his agency will look at potential loading and disposal sites and at rail shipping rates.

The study listed several desert locations served by rail lines which might offer disposal facilities. One of them is an abandoned iron ore mine owned by Kaiser Steel Corp. at Eagle Mountain, about 185 miles from the San Gabriel Valley in Riverside County.

Gerald A. Fawcett, manager of projects and development for Kaiser, disclosed last week that Kaiser has reached agreement in principle with Mine Reclamation Corp. of San Diego to develop a landfill at Eagle Mountain to receive trash by rail.

Fawcett said many obstacles must be overcome, but "if things go well," the landfill could be open by 1991.

First, he said, Kaiser, which is in bankruptcy, must submit the agreement with Mine Reclamation Co. to federal bankruptcy court for approval.

Then, he said, discussions must be undertaken with Riverside County officials, who would have to issue a permit for the landfill and would decide whether trash could be shipped there from outside the county.

The Eagle Mountain site, which lies 10 miles north of Desert Center, is served by Kaiser's own 55-mile rail line, which ties in with a Southern Pacific line at Ferrum, on the northern shore of the Salton Sea.

Fawcett said tentative plans call for a landfill that could handle 4,000 tons of trash a day initially and could be expanded to receive 15,000 tons a day. The San Gabriel Valley generates 8,000 tons of trash daily.

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