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Officials Voice Doubts on Selling Landfills

October 01, 1996|SHELBY GRAD

Consultants Monday unveiled a lengthy report on the future of the county's landfill system, but some Waste Management Commission members are already expressing strong reservations about one option: selling the dumps to a private operator.

The 2-inch-thick report, prepared over the last two months by A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc. and Alex, Brown & Sons Inc., does not recommend specific action. But it does offer an exhaustive analysis of the landfill operations and examines several possible scenarios.

Selling or leasing the county's four active landfills and more than 20 closed dumps has a "medium" probability of completion and would likely face regulatory hurdles, according to the report.

Doug Reynolds, who helped prepare the report for A.G. Edwards, said the landfills represent an attractive and valuable asset that would probably generate private sector interest if offered for sale. "But these are issues that involve a lot of complex negotiations," he said.

Ever since Orange County's December 1994 bankruptcy, officials have discussed selling the system and using the proceeds to help pay off debts. But several officials have expressed concern that a private operator might skirt environmental regulations and charge higher dumping fees.

"We all know there are rules. But we all know that rules sometimes get broken," said Commissioner Lynn Daucher, who is also a Brea City Council member. "Residents who live near the landfills are concerned."

Ron Hoesterey, chairman of the commission, questioned the logic of leaving the landfill business now when demand for dump space is expected increase over the next 25 years. "I don't think this is the best time to do it." Keeping the landfills in county hands under control of the Independent Waste Management District or hiring a management company both have a "high probability" of succeeding, according to the report.


Space for Waste

Orange County generates 12.6% of the waste in Southern California, but its four active landfills comprise 16% of the area's landfill capacity. By contrast, Los Angeles County generates 50% of the waste but has 45% of the remaining space. Regional landfill capacity by county:

Los Angeles: 45%

Orange: 16

San Diego: 13

Riverside: 11

San Bernardino: 10

Ventura: 4

Imperial: 1

Sources: A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc.; Alex, Brown & Sons Inc.

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