While (Long Beach) City Auditor Robert Fronke is to be commended for his evaluation of the city's hazardous waste materials operations (Times, Aug. 5), it is important for the public to be made aware of the reasons for any inadequacies attributed to the city Department of Health and Human Services.
First, until this budget year, the Department of Public Health has received funding from the council for only one full-time staff person to manage its hazardous waste materials operations. (The remainder of the duties were to be assumed by the Fire Department.) This year, the department received approval for three additional staff.
Second, although the council passed legislation to require the inspection of underground tanks, it did not appropriate funds for inspectors. Moreover, inspections are costly--these large tanks must be dug up, inspected, replaced and/or repaired (at a cost of between $50,000 and $100,000 per tank)--making it unlikely that small businesses will voluntarily step forward to speed up the process.
Third, inspection of leaking underground tanks barely scratches the surface of the magnitude of problems taking place in our city boundaries concerning the handling and disposal of hazardous waste materials. Our sewers, bays, flood control (channels) and alleys are more and more frequently the dumping grounds for both industrial and household hazardous waste.