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Council, State Vie Over Dumps


The Los Angeles City Council on Friday voted to demand that the state Department of Health Services put a stop to the dumping of low-level radioactive waste in landfills.

Councilman Nate Holden, who sponsored the unanimously adopted resolution, said he was outraged to learn Friday that state officials continue to allow companies and researchers to dispose of low-level waste in landfills, despite a judge's ruling in May that seems to prohibit the dumping.

"How do you circumvent a court order?" he said. "We need to order them to comply."

Holden said there is no reason to allow radioactive waste in city landfills. "There are designated sites for this, outside the city of Los Angeles, and we should take it there," he said.

His motion called for immediate action by the Legislature that would "permanently and unequivocally prohibit any dumping of low-level radioactive waste at landfills." State Sens. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) and Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) are carrying legislation to restrict the dumping.

Dan Hirsch of the antinuclear group Committee to Bridge the Gap, which sought the court order in May, said it was "very important that the Los Angeles City Council has taken this so seriously."

Hirsch said some radioactive waste has been going to California dumps for years but that the state Department of Health Services has recently loosened restrictions.

Department of Health Services Director Diana M. Bonta said Thursday that federal law allows the dumping as long as the waste has the lowest "reasonably achievable" level of radiation, not to exceed 25 millirems, or about the equivalent of 2 1/2 chest X-rays.

Since April, city officials have been conducting an investigation into a state-issued report that radioactive waste may have been dumped at Bradley Landfill in Sun Valley. They were ordered at the time by the City Council to assess whether there is a public health hazard.

The Bradley Landfill investigation stemmed from a recent report by the state Integrated Waste Management Board that Rocketdyne's Santa Susana Field Laboratory may have deposited low-level radioactive waste there during the last decade without the knowledge of state or local regulators or the landfill operator.

Councilwoman Wendy Greuel said through a spokesman that she opposes any action by the Department of Health Services to allow continued dumping.

"She strongly believes the state of California should follow the California Environmental Quality Act to its fullest extent and immediately halt the dumping of any and all radioactive waste in our communities," said aide Matt Szabo.

Holden introduced the resolution after learning from a Times story Friday that the Department of Health Services had adopted a federal regulation to allow the dumping.

Superior Court Judge Gayle Ohanesian of Sacramento ruled last month that the regulation does not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act. The bottom line, said Romero, is that state officials are doing "the same thing the judge said they should not be doing."

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