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Landfill Plans Unclear as Study Flaws Surface : Lake View Terrace: Officials throw out a draft report recommending an extension of the facility's operation that was based on faulty savings estimates.


The future of the Lopez Canyon Landfill near Lake View Terrace was uncertain Thursday after sanitation officials acknowledged that previous estimates of the money that would be saved by extending the life of the dump were wrong.

Following a tongue-lashing by Councilman Richard Alarcon, sanitation officials agreed to throw out a draft study that recommends extending operation of the landfill beyond its 1996 closing date. The recommendation was based on calculations that the extension would be $72 million cheaper than any alternative.

Alarcon, a vocal opponent of the landfill, which is located in his district, pointed out several flaws in the study's cost estimates and demanded that sanitation officials re-examine the numbers.

"The fact that the document's figures are wrong and misleading but have continued to be the basis for the city pursuing an extension of Lopez Canyon is outrageous," he told sanitation officials Wednesday at a meeting of the council's Public Works Committee.

Drew Sones, assistant director of the city's Bureau of Sanitation, agreed to re-examine the calculations, telling Alarcon he could throw away the department's study. "You can recycle it," he said.

In an interview Thursday, Sones said the decision to throw out previous assumptions about the dump means that any past recommendations by his department to extend its life must also be reconsidered.

"I think our position is we are going to redo the numbers so we can all agree what the (accurate) numbers are and then bring those numbers back" to the panel for a final decision, he said.

The decision was a small victory for Alarcon and other dump opponents but is not likely to close the book on this long-running controversy.

"It just shows that they didn't do (the study) right and they need to do it right," said Phyllis Hines, a landfill opponent and member of the Lake View Terrace Improvement Assn.

She and Alarcon both criticized the Lopez Canyon study, saying it fails to investigate recycling as an alternative to keeping the dump open.

"It should be called a landfill plan, not a waste management plan," she said.

The controversy began in March when sanitation officials released a draft study on waste disposal strategies that recommended extending the landfill's operating permit until 2000, based on calculations that said the city could save $72 million if it did not have to haul trash elsewhere.

The recommendation prompted an outcry from landfill opponents, including Alarcon, who accused sanitation officials of going back on a promise that no further extensions would be sought beyond 1996.

Since then, Alarcon has pointed out several inconsistencies in the study and pressured sanitation officials to re-examine their calculations. For example, the cost of hauling trash by rail to a remote landfill, he said, was overestimated by about 25%.

Once the flaws are corrected, Alarcon said, the difference between extending the landfill and other alternatives is only $3 million to $5 million.

Sones said his department will complete a new study of the costs of extending the landfill's operation by the end of October. Meanwhile, he said, the city has begun to seek cost estimates from firms interested in providing an alternative to the landfill, such as trucking trash to other local landfills or hauling it by rail to remote dumps. Those proposals should be completed by February, Sones said.

As part of the evaluation of the alternatives, he said the city will give extra consideration to those firms that put a strong emphasis on recycling.

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