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Closure of Lopez Canyon Is Impossible, Board Says

June 24, 1989|HECTOR TOBAR | Times Staff Writer

Members of the California Waste Management Board said Friday that they sympathized with the complaints of residents who live near Lopez Canyon Landfill, but added that it would be impossible to meet the demands of some to close the dump.

The remarks came after a public hearing on a city of Los Angeles request to renew a permit to operate the landfill, the city's only public waste dump. A decision on the permit is expected at the board's next meeting July 13 and 14 in Sacramento, board officials said.

About 100 residents of Lake View Terrace, Kagel Canyon and other communities near Lopez Canyon Landfill filled the Glendale City Council chambers to overflowing for the hearing. They told the board that pungent odors often emanate from large uncovered mounds of garbage in the landfill, that trash blows into the surrounding homes on windy days, and that mud washes down into back yards and pools during rainstorms.

Official Inspection

The residents' description of the landfill was in marked contrast to the tour that board members and local officials took of the site Thursday. Board members at that time commented on the cleanliness and apparent efficiency of the landfill, but residents said it had been spruced up for the occasion. Representatives of the city's Bureau of Sanitation, which operates the dump, denied the residents' charges.

Coddy Nuckols, a bricklayer and resident of Kagel Canyon, told the board Friday that his numerous complaints to city officials had been ignored. "I feel like I've been betrayed and lied to by people who don't care," Nuckols said of the officials. "I feel so frustrated sometimes, like I'm caught up with a machine I can't control."

Trucks dump about 4,000 tons of city garbage per day into the northeast San Fernando Valley landfill. But a state permit issued in 1978 allows the city to dump only 8,000 tons of garbage per month, a figure that waste management officials said may have been a typographical error.

Although the landfill is licensed to remain open until 1992, its operating permit has not undergone periodic reviews as required by law. At Friday's meeting, city officials asked the board to renew the permit and expand the daily capacity to at least 4,000 tons.

Los Angeles produces 6,000 tons of garbage a day. Malcolm Toy, assistant director of the Bureau of Sanitation, said the city would be hard-pressed to find new dump sites if Lopez Canyon were closed.

Serious Implications

"We are conducting a very delicate balancing act," Toy said. "We are concerned that by limiting our trash inflow at Lopez Canyon, we could have serious problems."

Despite the pleas of Toy and other city officials, Assemblywoman Marian W. La Follette (R-Northridge) urged the state panel to limit dumping at the landfill. She told board members that if they granted the city's request, "you really and truly will have rewarded the city for its incompetent handling of the waste situation."

Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar) and City Councilman Ernani Bernardi also asked the board to consider limiting waste buried at Lopez Canyon.

One residents group presented a 20-minute slide show of alleged violations of state law committed at the landfill. Board members said afterward that they were impressed by the residents' arguments.

"These people have some very legitimate complaints," said E. L. (Skeet) Varner. "Their local government has failed them. I can certainly understand their frustration."

But Varner, like other board members, said closing Lopez Canyon or even limiting the amount dumped might be difficult if not impossible.

If Lopez Canyon were closed, "the city of Los Angeles would find itself between a rock and a hard place," board Chairman John E. Gallagher said.

Board member Les Brown suggested that reducing the amount of waste dumped into the landfill each day might allow it to remain open longer--perhaps beyond its projected 1992 closing date.

"You can take away a whole lot and close early or a little and have it stay open longer," Brown said.

Friday's hearing was moved to Southern California because of local opposition and concern about the dump, which increased when two workers were hospitalized after they inhaled toxic fumes at the site in March. Residents have blocked the entrance to the landfill three times this year to protest conditions there.

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