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The Region

O.C. Seeks Emergency Funds to Halt Slide at Irvine Landfill

Waste: County moves to spend $1.5 million on temporary repairs to a 40-acre section that is fracturing. The site plays a crucial role in paying off bankruptcy debt.

September 06, 2002|DAVID REYES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 40-acre section of the Frank R. Bowerman landfill in Irvine is buckling and fracturing, prompting officials to seek emergency funds to halt the landslide before the rainy season begins.

Officials said that if the landslide isn't stopped, it could reduce the long-term capacity of the landfill at a time when the county is using revenue from the facility to pay off bankruptcy debts.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors will be asked Tuesday to declare a state of emergency at the landfill, clearing the way for the county to spend $1.5 million to make temporary repairs.

"This is a vital resource," said Linda Hagthrop, a county spokeswoman. "Any reduction in capacity shortens the time period in which we can provide this vital service."

To pay off the bankruptcy debt, the county is accepting trash from outside the county through 2015. The landslide, if unchecked, threatens to reduce the lifespan of Bowerman, jeopardizing the county's long-term plans.

Officials aren't sure what caused the landslide, though some have speculated that a small earthquake this year may have shifted the soil. High levels of ground water weighed down by tons of earth propel the slide--roughly 40 acres and 265 feet deep--about 6 inches each month. It was first noticed in February, when large cracks developed in the area, said Janice V. Goss, the county's Integrated Waste Management director.

The ground water prevents officials from using as much of the landfill as they would like.

"We need to put in horizontal drains made up of pipes to reduce the pressure of the ground water, remove 800,000 cubic yards of dirt, then grade the entire area to reduce the load," Goss said.

Because of the size of the slide area, it will probably take at least 10 earth-moving vehicles more than two months to finish the project, said Michael Giancola, Bowerman's manager.

Orange County began importing trash in October 1995, after its financial collapse. Since then, nearly $100 million in dumping fees has been paid by other counties' trash haulers. Much of that windfall goes to pay off a bankruptcy bond debt of nearly $1 billion.

Because of the imported trash, the county has proposed expanding the size and life span of Bowerman and the Olinda Alpha landfill near Brea to meet future local needs.

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