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Officials Push to Study Alternatives to Expansion of Landfill in Valley

Sanitation: Energy conversion, recycling and remote hauling of trash could be examined.


Mayor James K. Hahn and four City Council members from the San Fernando Valley proposed Tuesday that the city begin a study to identify ways to dispose of trash other than expansion of Sunshine Canyon Landfill.

Councilman Hal Bernson, who introduced the motion, said the alternatives considered should include an incinerator that would convert trash to energy, possibly at Hansen Dam or next to the Hyperion Waste Treatment Plant.

''My first choice, if we were able to do it, would be to go to energy conversion,'' Bernson said at a City Hall news conference. ''We can find an appropriate location. It doesn't have to be near residential uses.''

The study, which was supported by council members Alex Padilla and Dennis Zine and Councilwoman-elect Wendy Greuel, also would look at alternatives such as hauling refuse by truck or train to remote desert landfills, including Eagle Mountain in Riverside County.

Other options cited include an expansion of recycling to commercial and apartment buildings, action that would reduce the amount of trash dumped into a landfill.

Bernson also suggested the council study the possibility of a trash pickup fee to pay for alternative measures, something he has traditionally opposed.

A similar study conducted by the city before the council approved expansion of Sunshine Canyon in 1999 indicated that use of other remote landfills would cost much more, said Arnie Berghoff, a spokesman for Sunshine Canyon operator Browning-Ferris Industries.

''Any alternative is going to be tremendously expensive,'' Berghoff said.

The city has four years remaining on its contract with BFI for dumping at Sunshine Canyon, said Berghoff, adding that "we expect them to honor it.''

Berghoff also cited a waste-to-energy project in Los Angeles that was abandoned in the 1980s because of public opposition.

But Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) said at the news conference that pollution-control technology has so improved that the South Coast Air Quality Management District approved a trash-to-energy project in Long Beach a decade ago. "And the AQMD is one of the strictest air-quality agencies in the entire world," Sherman said.

Sherman said he plans to ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to determine whether the landfill is a threat to the nearby Los Angeles Reservoir.

Trash-conversion plants operating in Japan, Europe and elsewhere have sophisticated scrubbing systems to remove pollutants, Bernson said.

Bernson's motion awaits a council vote. While he appears to have the eight votes needed to support a study, Hahn and the other council members stopped short of endorsing a trash-to-energy plant.

''We need to look at other alternatives that will lessen the need for Sunshine Canyon Landfill or any landfill in the city limits of Los Angeles,'' Hahn said.

The city has time to examine alternatives, Hahn said, because it recently rejected an application from BFI for an operating permit to expand Sunshine Canyon, saying the paperwork is incomplete.

BFI withdrew its application. The firm said it was still working on a design plan for expansion into Granada Hills.

Residents of the north San Fernando Valley who oppose the dump expansion said they are grateful the council appears open to alternatives. Since the council's approval of the expansion, a majority of council seats have changed hands.

''We are very happy to see that the city has finally recognized that there is a serious problem with Sunshine Canyon Landfill,'' said Wayde Hunter, head of the anti-landfill North Valley Coalition.

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