Dismayed at the prospect of living with a garbage dump for another five years, about 200 northeast San Fernando Valley residents--including religious, political and student leaders--this week asked Los Angeles sanitation officials to close Lopez Canyon Landfill on schedule next year.
The landfill was originally slated for closure in 1991, but Bureau of Sanitation officials requested an extension of the operating permit, saying they needed time to study alternatives to closing it. Now, sanitation officials have proposed another five-year extension, and residents said they feel betrayed.
Pinning a banner to a wall inside the Lake View Terrace Recreation Center on Monday, Sharon Faison, 37, of Kagel Canyon said the city is "just playing a big game. There is a list of alternatives to this site that nobody has yet seen. They won't publish it. And the environmental review they've conducted does not mention the numerous citations for air quality violations and other problems there."
Her banner read: "Not In My Back Yard Anymore--It's Already Full!"
Located in the hills above Lake View Terrace, the dump has become the rallying cry of residents who say extended operation of the facility represents "environmental racism."
Council members Richard Alarcon and Joel Wachs both oppose extending the landfill's operating permit, as does Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar). Alarcon noted that his 7th Council District--which includes a high percentage of Latino residents--takes in about 80% of household wastes generated by Los Angeles residents.
"This whole process is flawed," Alarcon said. "Condition Six of the 1991 agreement says that the extension 'shall be valid and in full force and effective for a period of five years, with no further extensions or authorizations.' I believe that shows a clear intent to close Lopez Canyon in 1996."
Alarcon suggested that sanitation officials delay any request for another extension until alternatives can be considered. Eight alternative proposals submitted by major waste disposal companies have not yet become public record, but sources privy to the documents said the costs of the proposals--in tons of garbage disposed per day--would not be much higher than the cost of keeping the Lopez dump open. Other options include shipping waste by rail to other sites, both inside and outside the city.
Among those who spoke against the extension was William Christopher, a former Los Angeles planning commissioner who reviewed the 1991 request to extend the dump's operating permit. Christopher now works for a consortium of neighborhood associations that includes a Lake View Terrace community group.
"In my mind, in 1991, the city's decision to grant the extension was contingent on the fact that the city would close the landfill this time," Christopher said. "Landfills were originally designed for remote areas. Lopez Canyon has become an urban area in the past 30 years. It's time to take a new look at how to dispose of the city's waste."
Other speakers highlighted a spate of recent environmental violations issued to the landfill by the Air Quality Management District board. Several violations were issued in November because operators failed to capture gas fumes leaking from the methane collection system. Another violation was issued to the landfill on Tuesday, for excessive odors, officials said.