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To Handle Waste : Bellflower Asks 7 Cities to Join Panel

February 19, 1989|JAMES M. GOMEZ | Times Staff Writer

BELLFLOWER — Responding to warnings that the county may soon run out of places to bury its trash, officials in this residential community are recruiting seven Southeast cities to devise a plan to handle the voluminous waste generated each day.

The Bellflower City Council's two-man waste management subcommittee has invited the cities' officials to join a proposed waste-management commission. Councilmen William J. Pendleton and Randy Bomgaars were appointed to the subcommittee when it was formed one month ago.

Variety of Alternatives

The proposed commission, which would be patterned after a similar group in the San Gabriel Valley, would look at a variety of waste-management alternatives, such as recycling, waste reduction and the construction of a waste-to-energy facility similar to the Long Beach and Commerce solid-waste incinerators, officials said.

"It's apparent that we all are running out of space," Pendleton said in an interview at City Hall last week. "It's getting worse. It's right in everybody's face and we have to do something about it."

Pendleton and Bomgaars wrote to administrators and council members in Artesia, Norwalk, Lakewood, Paramount, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens and Cerritos.

"One of the most pressing issues in American cities today is solid-waste management," they wrote in the Jan. 31 letter. "Waste-management issues affect us all, and perhaps working together, we can develop a better strategy and plan for the future."

Downey and Paramount officials already have expressed an interest in the Bellflower proposal, said administrative assistant Gonzalo M. Vazquez.

Officials of the Los Angeles Sanitation Districts estimate that the county's 10 landfills will be filled by 1992. About 45,000 tons of trash are deposited in landfills each day, said Donald S. Nellor, head of the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts' solid-waste management division. That figure is likely to increase to 60,000 tons a day in three years, Nellor said.

Rail Line Suggested

"There will be no place for cities to put their trash in the very near future," said Nellor, whose agency has suggested a rail line be built to haul trash to unoccupied desert areas.

Pendleton, an outspoken advocate of controversial waste-to-energy technology, will attend a waste-management conference in Miami this week to study various options to meet the growing trash problem.

The two-day "Resource Recovery" conference, which begins Thursday, is sponsored by the National League of Cities, and will be a forum for city officials throughout the country to discuss a broad range of waste-management issues and problem-solving technology.

Pendleton, who is a customer service supervisor for Southern California Edison, said he would rather see the city fund a waste-to-energy incinerator to reduce solid waste.

Waste-to-energy incinerators, such as facilities in Commerce and Long Beach, burn tons of municipal garbage and convert the heat into electricity, which is bought by the local electric company for resale to customers.

Pendleton, whose decisions as a councilman may ultimately benefit Edison, the local electric utility, said that he saw no conflict of interest in his involvement in the subcommittee. He added, however, that he would resign from the subcommittee if City Atty. Maurice F. O'Shea says that there might be a conflict of interest.

Although the two facilities have been praised by some city and county officials for lowering the amount of solid waste dumped into the county's 10 landfills, others have been critical of the plants. They say that waste-to-energy technology can pollute the air.

In fact, the Commerce facility has been cited recently for repeatedly violating air pollution limits. The South Coast Air Quality Management District has denied the two-year-old facility full operating permits until plant operators can reduce emission levels.

Violated Standards

Last year the newly opened Southeast Resource Recovery Facility (SERRF) on Terminal Island violated AQMD standards for excessive visible emissions during testing. In November, a defect in a precast concrete wall caused the city to postpone approval of the plant until the problem is corrected.

And two years ago, environmentalists, community leaders and local lawmakers led a successful protest against a proposed incinerator in South-Central Los Angeles.

Robert Hattoy, a spokesman for the Sierra Club, said that even the most advanced technology cannot fully guarantee that the environment will be protected. "It is always the fear that the best technology available doesn't always work," he said.

Hattoy suggested that recycling and waste reduction should be attempted before public officials open new landfills or build waste-to-energy facilities.

Considering Options

Pendleton and Bomgaars said they are considering a variety of options as they develop a waste-management plan for the city. But each clearly has his own philosophy for battling the growing trash problem.

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