Worried that expansion of America's second-largest landfill would threaten their suburban neighborhood, Hacienda Heights residents are marshaling forces against any growth of the Puente Hills dump.
On Monday, opponents filled a school gymnasium to hear speakers decry plans to expand the dump as part of solving the county's overall dilemma of where to put the tens of thousands of tons of trash generated daily.
"The San Gabriel Valley and Hacienda Heights have done more than their share in collecting garbage for the rest of Southern California," Virgil Jose, one of the anti-dump leaders, said Tuesday.
The landfill's conditional-use permit, granted by Los Angeles County, expires in one year. In anticipation, the dump's operator, the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, has prepared a draft of an environmental impact report that assesses the future of trash disposal in the county.
The report names Puente Hills, where 12,000 tons of trash are dumped daily, as one of seven landfills scheduled for possible expansion. In addition, Glendale's Scholl Canyon landfill, which serves several western San Gabriel Valley cities including Pasadena, and the Azusa Land Reclamation dump are among the landfills whose possible expansions are evaluated in the report, said Grace Chan, a solid waste planner for the sanitation districts.
Puente Hills, with its 1,531 acres by the San Gabriel River (605) and the Pomona (60) freeways, might be expanded to hold as much as 75 million additional tons over a 20-year period, Chan said. But, she said, nothing specific has been decided, and the priority is to find alternatives to landfills through recycling and by reducing the amount of trash generated. Still, she said, the report "recognizes the need for additional landfill capacity."
The mood of Monday's meeting in Hacienda Heights, however, was to say no to expansion of any dumps.
"The key issue is, we don't want the dump," Hacienda Heights resident Wil Baca, who co-founded the California Alliance in Defense of Residential Environments, said Tuesday.
Baca's colleague, Jose, added: "The (San Gabriel Valley) dumps were fine when this area was sparsely populated, but not anymore."
Referring to the Hacienda Heights Improvement Assn.'s successful battle against the placement of trash incinerators in the mid-1980s at Puente Hills and other locations, Jose said: "The one thing we learned last time was to get political. That's the only way these things can be fought."
In this case, state Sen. Charles M. Calderon (D-Whittier) and state Sen. Frank Hill (R-Whittier) already have expressed their opposition and came to the meeting Monday to support the cause.
Likewise, Royall K. Brown, a member of the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District and an activist fighting against the BKK Corp. landfill in West Covina, addressed the group. Tuesday he commented: "If they don't stop that dump coming over the canyon, they'll have the same problems we did."
As examples, he cited odors fouling residential neighborhoods and contaminated ground water.
Baca said the draft report discounts the importance of recycling and of alternatives such as the hauling of trash by train to the desert.
A final environmental report is expected to be completed by next summer, Chan said, adding that she hopes opponents will closely study both the draft and the final statement "prior to making any prejudgments."
Four public hearings are scheduled on the draft. One of the hearings will be in Glendale at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Wilson Junior High School. Another hearing will be in Bassett at the sanitation districts office, 1955 Workman Mill Road, at 7 p.m. Oct. 17. The others will be held in Torrance and Granada Hills.