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VERNON : Toxic Waste Foes Find a Victory in Defeat

August 18, 1994|SIMON ROMERO

Although the community group lost in a state appellate court last week, the Mothers of East Los Angeles has succeeded in helping prevent a local company from transporting toxic waste in what has been called one of the state's most polluted cities.

The 2nd Appellate Court's decision Aug. 10 upheld a Superior Court ruling that the city was justified in granting a conditional-use permit in 1992 to JCI Environmental Services Inc., 4133 Bandini Blvd., to transport hazardous waste. The Mothers of East L.A. sued JCI and the city that year over the issuance of the permit after it was discovered that the company failed to properly store hazardous waste on its property and that other conditions were not being met.

In April, after pleas from the Mothers of East L.A., the City Council revoked the company's permit when a monitoring system detected that a waste tank was leaking.

City inspectors also cited potential soil contamination and violation of frontage requirements.

"We gave JCI every opportunity to do the right thing and they failed to," said Roger Wilner, an attorney helping to represent the city in the case. Said Aurora Castillo of the nonprofit Mothers of East L.A.: "We still claim this as a victory, since their permit was removed."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday August 25, 1994 Home Edition Long Beach Part J Page 3 Column 4 Zones Desk 1 inches; 31 words Type of Material: Correction
JCI Environmental Services--An Aug. 18 story incorrectly stated the type of conditional use permit granted to JCI Environmental Services Inc. by the Vernon City Council in 1992. The permit was to operate a truck terminal.

A JCI representative refused to comment.

With a fleet of about 25 tank trucks, service trucks and other company vehicles, JCI transported hazardous waste for companies in Los Angeles and several Southeast cities. By definition, hazardous waste can explode, ignite, corrode metal and poison or damage organisms.

JCI handled wastes mainly in liquid form, contained in steel drums, said Andy Yamamoto, an attorney representing the Mothers of East L.A. "Hopefully, this will teach JCI to clean up its act," said Yamamoto. "JCI has been a repeat offender when it comes to environmental regulations in the state of California."

According to Carlos Porras, Southern California director of the Venice-based Citizens for a Better Environment, Vernon has been documented as the dirtiest ZIP code in the state. The city is home to steel and chemical manufacturers and distributors and the West Coast's largest lead battery recycler.

An investigation by the California Public Interest Research Group revealed that the city annually emits, processes or stores 27 million pounds of toxics--more than three times as much as the city of Los Angeles.

With 150 residents, Vernon has the smallest residential population of any incorporated city in the state. Its daytime population swells to about 50,000.

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