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Multi-City Trash Panel Proposal Unveiled

June 25, 1989|JAMES M. GOMEZ | Times Staff Writer

BELLFLOWER — A proposal to establish a multi-city commission on waste management in the Southeast has drawn mixed reactions, despite warnings by two Bellflower councilmen that the county's trash disposal problem may be reaching crisis proportions.

At an informal dinner meeting, Councilmen William J. Pendleton and Randy Bomgaars urged representatives of two local lawmakers, several cities and two trash companies to form a "metropolitan-type" commission that would study ways to reduce the tons of trash generated each day in the handful of suburban cities north of Long Beach.

"What I'm trying to tell you is something you already know," Pendleton told the 20 people who met June 15 in a banquet room of the Casa Grande restaurant. "We have a (trash) problem and we have to start dealing with it now."

The group included representatives from Artesia, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs, Cerritos College, the offices of Assemblyman Willard H. Murray Jr. (D-Paramount) and state Sen. Cecil N. Green (D-Norwalk), the County Sanitation Districts, and two local trash disposal companies--Consolidated Disposal and Cal-San Inc.

The Bellflower officials' plea for a commission to combat the rising volume of trash met with varied responses. Some who attended the meeting promised full support of the plan, while others were more cautious. A number of officials in nearby cities snubbed invitations to attend the meeting.

Artesia Councilman James Van Horn said he is skeptical about implementing several options mentioned, including mandatory curb-side recycling programs and construction of a waste-to-energy facility.

Van Horn said he opposes most recycling and waste management programs because they cost more than conventional methods of trash disposal. "If you're talking about raising the trash bill, forget it," he said. "I am running for reelection (in April, 1989). I want another four years. I don't need to get into this now.

"I don't think my constituents are ready to pay for this right now."

Van Horn also said that he would not throw his political support behind the proposal to form the multi-city commission until "there is something on paper."

In a later telephone interview, Van Horn said: "I don't see the productiveness in sitting around at table and talking about a problem (without) having anything (a written proposal) on the table."

But Norwalk Mayor Grace Napolitano, who recently had taken a tour of the county's landfills, said she is interested in the plan to start a joint-powers commission.

She urged others at the meeting to schedule a tour of the landfills, which county officials say could be closed within three years.

She said that for city officials to work together effectively to reduce waste, a fact-finding panel should be formed as soon as possible. "We have to find solutions now or pay dearly in the future," Napolitano said in a telephone interview.

Santa Fe Springs Finance Director Donald Nuttle said his city is taking a middle-of-the-road approach. "We're interested in continuing a dialogue to help with whatever solutions there may be to waste management," Nuttle said after the meeting. "We're supportive, but not to the point that we will go out and take a leadership role in this."

Pendleton and Bomgaars first outlined the proposal to form a joint-powers commission in a Jan. 31 letter to officials in Artesia, Norwalk, Lakewood, Paramount, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens and Cerritos. It read in part:

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

Officials of the Sanitation Districts estimate that the county's 10 landfills will be filled by 1992. The volume of trash deposited at the landfills each day is expected to increase from about 45,000 tons currently to 60,000 tons in three years.

So far, Pendleton said, Cerritos is the only city that has not responded in writing to that letter. Officials in Downey, Lakewood, Paramount and Hawaiian Gardens were invited to the meeting, but did not attend.

At the dinner meeting, Pendleton showed a videotape of waste-management facilities operating in Europe. Pendleton said that he attended a conference on waste management in February, at which he discovered a "variety of different ways to handle trash," including composting, curb-side recycling and waste-to-energy technology.

"They all have to be considered," he said.

But, Pendleton and Bomgaars admitted, no technology today will make waste management cost efficient. "It's going to cost money," Pendleton said. "But we have to deal with this now because it will cost more in the future is we don't.

"If we don't do something now, there will come a point in a few years that there will be more trash put out on the curb than can be picked up. We're up against tomorrow."

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