Playing fields at the massive Scholl Canyon recreation complex in Glendale, which has been plagued with problems of explosive levels of methane gas leaking from the landfill beneath it, remained closed today pending negotiations between city and state officials.
Public Works Director George Miller said the city "is in a holding pattern" to determine when the 10-acre grounds, popular as baseball diamonds and soccer fields, will reopen.
The three fields were closed last Friday after the South Coast Air Quality Management District ordered the city either to meet stringent standards in burning off leaking methane at the landfill or immediately cease burning the gas.
An AQMD hearing board on July 20 ruled that it would no longer put up with excessive pollutants emitted by the city's malfunctioning system. The city faces fines of up to $25,000 a day for failing to obey the district's orders.
The AQMD has been attempting since last year to get the city to replace an old system that was built to collect and burn off the gas that forms naturally in a landfill.
A total of 13 conditions were imposed on the city by the AQMD last week, including several conditions that city officials said they lack the equipment to meet.
City Manager David H. Ramsay said that, for instance, the city is unable to control the amount of gas that is leaking from buried pipelines that have been broken and plugged as a result of the shifting and decomposition of material in the landfill.
Although the city this month awarded a contract to install a new pipeline system, Ramsay said the AQMD conditions could require that the city temporarily patch the old system, which could cost $25,000 to $50,000 and may not even be possible. "That would be only a temporary solution, which we think would be throwing good money after bad," Ramsay said.
While AQMD officials have not specified what compromises they may be willing to make, Tom Eichhorn, an AQMD spokesman, said: "What we are looking for is proof of reasonable efforts by the city to correct the problems. We are not going to run out there and slap a citation on them if they are making reasonable efforts."
In response to the AQMD's edict, the city last week closed the ball fields and temporarily extinguished flares used to burn off excess methane gas. The flares were reignited within 24 hours after both city and AQMD officials agreed that unburned gas could accumulate and migrate from the landfill site, posing the threat of an explosion.
AQMD officials agreed not to cite the city for its methane pollution problems until a solution can be found. Miller said that no gas clouds formed and that the episode ended without incident. However, he said the ball fields will remain closed until the AQMD allows the city to reopen them.
"Right now there is no problem up there and we should have no problem in reopening the ball fields," Miller said. "But we feel it is best to keep them closed until we have further discussions with the district on what we are going to do."
The city last September closed a nine-hole golf course and 10 tennis courts in the 50-acre complex built immediately atop the landfill after excessive methane was discovered leaking from the trash and debris decomposing below.
Miller said the city expects to submit a proposal by Friday outlining the steps it is taking to keep methane pollution at Scholl Canyon to a minimum until a new system and equipment can be installed, expected by the end of the year.
In the meantime, he said, a roadway leading into the recreation complex at the eastern end of Glenoaks Boulevard, which was blocked off and posted with warning signs on Friday, will remain closed until the city receives further instructions from the AQMD.
Closure of the parking lot serving the ball fields and immediately adjoining the landfill was one of the conditions set by the AQMD last week. Youth groups and amateur teams that traditionally use the fields were notified last Friday by the city to move their activities to other city parks.
Nello Iacono, director of parks and community services, said the closure "happened at a good time" because the ball fields are only lightly used at this time of year, which is between the baseball and soccer seasons.
Miller said the city is continuing to monitor the levels of methane around the landfill. He said conditions have remained unchanged at the ball fields and are considered safe.