AZUSA — After two years of negotiations and controversy, the Azusa Land Reclamation Co. has won approval from a regional water board to expand its dump.
Despite the approval by the Los Angeles Regional Water Control Board, San Gabriel Valley water officials say the dump's expansion will lead to even more polluted water for the San Gabriel Valley.
The board voted 4 to 3 Monday to approve the Azusa Land Reclamation Co.'s plan to expand in stages its 80-acre disposal area to 302 acres.
Under the plan, the landfill must encase all areas used for dumping, first with a layer of plastic, then with a layer of clay.
"The liner design is the most stringent of any non-hazardous landfill in the state of California," said Ric Spenser, general manager of the landfill. "It surpasses the requirements of hazardous landfills in many instances."
The lining is twice as thick as required by the Regional Water Quality Control Board, said Ray Delacourt, senior water resource control engineer for the board.
"You can think of it in terms of looking at the sole of a soldier's boot," he said. "We're not talking about a plastic garbage bag, we're talking about something much more substantial than that."
But Robert Berlien, general manager of the Upper San Gabriel Valley Water District, said the clay and plastic will not keep the dump from polluting ground water.
"We don't feel they should expand the landfill," he said. "Because of all the water movement in that area, we feel it's a bad place to put a garbage dump because if it does leak it will pollute the water."
Berlien said the Main San Gabriel Basin Watermaster Board, which has opposed the expansion since it was first proposed in 1986, can appeal the decision to the state Water Resources Board. The watermaster board will probably discuss the issue at its Dec. 7 meeting, he said.
One of Five in Valley
The landfill is located in a sand and gravel quarry off West Gladstone Street and receives about 1,500 tons of trash a day. The dump, one of five operating landfills in the San Gabriel Valley, has been open since 1952.
Spenser said the dump will expand slowly, with the smallest expansion area being 13.5 acres and the largest 45 acres. It will cost the landfill firm roughly $200,000 an acre to install the clay and plastic, he said.
The design process will take two months and construction will require another six months, he said.
If the landfill had not been allowed to expand, it would be filled in about 2 years, Spenser said. The expansion will allow the landfill to operate for about 20 additional years.
Engineers for the Regional Water Quality Control Board said it is difficult to determine whether pollutants have ever leaked out of the dump and into ground water. The water near the landfill filters in from several sources and is already polluted before it comes near the dump, Berlien said.
Contamination has been detected in about 88 of the 400 water wells in the main San Gabriel Water Basin, which supplies drinking water to an estimated 1 million people. Four areas of the basin were put on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund list in 1984. The EPA has not determined the source of the contamination but has estimated that the cleanup could cost at least $800 million.
The plan approved Monday is only one in a long list of attempts to expand the dump, and signals the end of negotiations with local and regional water officials.
The company's first plan, which included the clay but not the plastic liner, was voted down by the Regional Water Quality Board earlier this year.
The landfill firm investigated the possibility of importing dirt to raise the dump's elevation before burying trash, but abandoned the idea after learning that the cost for raising a 20-acre portion of the dump would be $7 million.
The company also offered to put $400,000 a year into a trust fund to deal with any ground water problems. The Main San Gabriel Basin Watermaster Board rejected the plan because if pollutants leak from the dump into ground water the damage would be so great and the cleanup cost so high that the trust fund would be inadequate.