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Regional Agency OKs Sunshine Canyon Landfill


CAMARILLO — A regional water agency on Monday approved the design for the liner of Sunshine Canyon Landfill, a move that makes the trash dump above Granada Hills one step closer to reopening this summer.

The California Regional Water Quality Control Board unanimously approved the plan after several hours of a frequently testy hearing at Camarillo City Hall.

The vote also comes three days after the disclosure that the North Valley Coalition of Concerned Citizens--the main opponent of the dump-- accepted about $60,000 from trash giant WMX Inc. to pay for a study that was critical of the stability of the dump's liner.

Officials at WMX said the company funded the report out of a concern that the landfill was not safe.

The landfill is owned and is being developed by WMX's archrival, Browning-Ferris Industries.

But Browning-Ferris has accused WMX of trying to quash competition in the industry. As home building declined during Southern California's recent recession, competition became fierce in the landfill industry.

On Monday, board members asked representatives from both WMX and the North Valley Coalition if newspaper accounts of the funding were accurate.

"We've taken help from anybody we could," responded Wayde Hunter, president of the coalition. "No one tells us what to do with our money. . . . So, please, don't ask me about these things. [Browning-Ferris] seeks to divert your attention."

Board member Larry Zarian replied heatedly: "The question of financing is important. . . . It's bothersome that a competitor is putting the money into this, and I want to know why they are doing it."

It was unclear whether the unusual financing deal tainted the anti-dump forces in the board's eyes, however, because the board's staff had already approved the liner's design and the board vote was a formality.

The board basically found that the design for the liner is safe. The hearing covered such arcane topics as slope stability, maximum ground movement and peak acceleration in an attempt to determine if the dump would survive a major earthquake intact.

Among the disagreements between geologists and engineers representing each side at Monday's hearing were several basic issues: how far the proposed dump is from the Santa Susana fault line (three kilometers or 1.5 kilometers); whether the liner is designed to withstand a 6.7 magnitude quake with one G-force of ground movement or only six-tenths of a G, and whether a collapse of the dump's liner could pollute the city water supply.

"Gas and water pipelines exploded, the freeway exchange fell, there was massive damage in the area, yet they tell us that Sunshine Canyon was not touched," Esther Simmons, a member of the North Valley Coalition, told the board. "I want a personal guarantee that the decision you make today will not affect me and my family . . . you are responsible for 4 million people who depend on this water."

Rod Nelson, however, the board's landfill specialist, called the study of the liner "unprecedented . . . in the region."

The coalition said the decision would be appealed to the state water board.

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