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L.A. Won't Give Up Fight on Landfill

State OKs expansion of the Sunshine Canyon dump. The mayor's office says the city will try to block other required permits.

May 15, 2003|Peter Nicholas | Times Staff Writer

Having lost a skirmish with state regulators, Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn's office said Wednesday it will press its fight to block other permits needed by the operator to expand Sunshine Canyon Landfill into the city.

Browning-Ferris Industries won a permit Tuesday from the state board that regulates landfills, over the objections of dozens of Granada Hill residents and other opponents who complained the dump is already uncomfortably close to schools, neighborhoods and water supplies in the northern San Fernando Valley.

The California Integrated Waste Management Board voted 5 to 0 with one abstention to award a permit to BFI for an expansion that will nearly double the size of the landfill.

In its 13-year history, the board has never voted to deny a permit.

The board's vote followed hours of public testimony by schoolchildren, parents, politicians, BFI employees and community groups, many of whom addressed the Sacramento-based board via a television hookup at a utility office in Granada Hills.

Opponents said the landfill poses environmental and health threats that will only get worse if the dump is expanded.

"Van Gogh Elementary School is downwind and their lunch table often has the dust and residue from flying debris from the dump," testified Cherrill Mann, a member of the North Valley Coalition, a Granada Hills environmental group.

The board said its discretion is limited. It can deny such permits only on narrow, technical grounds -- for example, if a landfill fails to meet minimum operating standards, a board spokesman said.

Some board members noted that the Los Angeles City Council approved the planned expansion in 1999.

"This is a good landfill that has an inspector on site," said board member Stephen R. Jones.

BFI needs several more permits, including one from the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. The company hopes to open the enlarged dump in October.

Brian Williams, a deputy mayor in the Hahn administration, said the city is not giving up.

Hahn said he will not renew the city's contract with BFI when it expires in 2006, as part of a broader plan to find other means of discarding the 1 million tons of waste Los Angeles produces each year.

"We were hoping for a positive vote, but we are prepared for the vote that they made," Williams said. "I've been in contact with many agencies already to ensure that there is no stone unturned in our efforts to stop the landfill."

Another landfill opponent, the North Valley Coalition's Kim Thompson, said she expects a more sympathetic hearing from the regional water quality board, which may take up the matter in August.

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