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County Studies Alternatives for Waste Disposal

June 29, 1989|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

The county Sanitation Districts are studying 10 proposals from major waste haulers, railroads and entrepreneurs offering to take trash from Los Angeles County to the desert by train to be recycled, buried or burned.

One company proposes to load 7,000 tons of trash a day on trains in City of Industry, Irwindale and La Verne and haul the waste 185 miles to an abandoned iron ore pit in Riverside County.

Another company would build a waste separation and recycling plant at Puente Hills landfill near Hacienda Heights and ship trash by rail to a plant near Victorville for processing into construction materials.

Trash Exportation

And a third company proposes to accept the rail-shipment of all the waste generated every day in Los Angeles County--45,000 tons--at a dump in Kern County.

The proposals were submitted to the county Sanitation Districts in response to a request for proposals for the design, financing and development of systems to export trash from Los Angeles County to remote areas.

The districts issued the request for proposals at the urging of the San Gabriel Valley Assn. of Cities, which began looking into the feasibility of rail-haul in 1986 as an alternative to trash-burning plants proposed in Irwindale, Puente Hills and Pomona. Environmental opposition killed the trash-burning projects, but cities have continued to pursue the rail-haul alternative.

A study undertaken by the Southern California Assn. of Governments last year found that hauling trash from the San Gabriel Valley to remote disposal sites by rail is "technically feasible and offers a potential solution to the solid waste disposal crisis projected for the 1990s."

The report by the regional planning agency noted that landfills in Los Angeles County are nearing capacity and that recycling is only a partial solution.

Currently, 58% of the county's trash goes to landfills in the San Gabriel Valley and nearby Glendale.

Closed by Noon

The county's largest landfill, Puente Hills, is so busy that it is often closed to trash trucks by noon because it has reached its daily permitted limit of 13,200 tons. Other landfills also are operating at capacity and county officials have predicted that by 1992, the amount of trash being generated may exceed the available landfill space by 6,000 tons a day.

The Sanitation Districts are exploring six potential landfill sites in Los Angeles County, but there are numerous obstacles, such as opposition from neighbors and stringent environmental regulations, which could delay or kill the projects. Thus, the Sanitation Districts have begun looking into the feasibility of shipping trash out of the county.

Charles W. Carry, chief engineer and general manager of the Sanitation Districts, said the rail-haul proposals received from private companies ranged from letters a few pages long to books thick with technical detail. Some of the proposals, he said, "are well thought out and rather complete. Others are little more than an expression of interest."

His staff was scheduled to evaluate the proposals and was to have reported its initial findings to the waste management task force of the San Gabriel Valley Assn. of Cities on Tuesday.

Thomas Harvey, task force chairman, said he has not seen the proposals, but the fact that they have come from railroads and major firms in the waste disposal industry is encouraging.

"I was pleased with the extent of interest shown," Harvey said.

What remains to be seen, he said, is whether trash can be sent to the desert for disposal at prices that are competitive with other options and whether such difficult problems as finding acceptable sites for loading the trains can be solved.

Some of the difficulties are already apparent.

Mine Reclamation Corp. has proposed building waste-loading stations in La Verne, Irwindale and Industry and hauling 7,000 tons of trash a day by rail to a disposal site at Eagle Mountain in Riverside County. Gary Kovall, senior vice president and general counsel of Mine Reclamation, said the company notified La Verne, Irwindale and Industry of proposed train-loading locations and, he said, "I would not describe their reaction as one of open arms."

Irwindale 'Negative'

"Industry was the most open," Kovall said. "Irwindale was negative and La Verne was like, 'You've got to be kidding.' "

Two of the proposed sites, along Southern Pacific railroad lines in Industry and Irwindale, were suggested in the study by the Southern California Assn. of Governments. The third site, across from Brackett Field in La Verne, was found independently by Mine Reclamation Corp. But Harvey, a member of the La Verne City Council, said that the site appears to conflict with plans to develop a 103-acre research and development complex.

Kovall stressed that Mine Reclamation Corp. is not wedded to any particular loading site.

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