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Report Backs Expansion at Sunshine Landfill

The dump would have to meet environmental and health standards to get approval by the L.A. water quality board.

September 11, 2003|Karima A. Haynes | Times Staff Writer

A report to be released today recommends that the Sunshine Canyon Landfill be permitted to expand into Granada Hills, as long as its operators meet strict public health and environmental standards.

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board asked for the report last month after 35 residents who live near the landfill expressed concerns about incidences of cancer within their own and neighbors' families.

The board's staff had recommended approval of regulations governing construction, operation and maintenance of a proposed 450-acre landfill expansion. But the board delayed action until the staff could respond to the community's concerns about cancer-causing pollutants.

It also asked for information about surface and groundwater contamination, wetlands and oak tree removal and trash reduction at the planned facility, operated by Browning-Ferris Inc.

The report -- culled from environmental, medical and landfill operation reports -- is to be presented at a public hearing today at the Metropolitan Water District headquarters in downtown Los Angeles.

"The members of the regional board have been presented with the staff report and other informational documents," said Dennis Dickerson, water board executive officer. "And, as they normally do, [they] will review the information presented to them, hear testimony, deliberate and render a decision based upon the information before them."

North Valley Coalition, which opposes landfill expansion, was gratified by the board's decision to put off action until a better assessment of potential health risks could be made. The coalition urged its members to voice their objections at the hearing.

"We would like you to come and rage with us," coalition President Wayde Hunter said in an e-mail sent to members. "We want the board to know that a significant number of people still care."

For years, neighboring residents have expressed concern that the landfill has generated pollutants that may have caused cancer, birth abnormalities, miscarriages, respiratory illnesses and other health issues in the community. An expanded landfill, they contend, would only exacerbate potential problems.

Even so, several epidemiologists have concluded that there is no evidence of excess cancer occurrence in residents of the area surrounding the landfill, according to the report.

"For a landfill to cause adverse health impacts to the surrounding area, there must be pathways that carry pollutants from the site to the human population," the report said. "In the case of Sunshine Canyon landfill ... no landfill leachate or contaminated surface water or groundwater should come in contact with local residents."

Board members were also concerned about the amount of wetlands that would be taken to make room for the expanded landfill. Under the construction plan, the expansion would require the removal of about 3 1/2 acres of wetlands, according to the report. In return, Browning-Ferris has submitted a plan to create 50 acres of wetlands at the Chatsworth Reservoir Nature Preserve.

Additionally, 510 oak trees would be cut down from the expansion site and twice as many new trees would be planted elsewhere, if the city of Los Angeles approves the company's permit.

The board also wanted to ensure that the landfill operator would participate in an effort to reduce trash in Los Angeles. According to the report, Browning-Ferris would establish a recycling operation at the expansion site and pay the city of Los Angeles about $3.3 million a year to support trash reduction, reuse and recycling programs.

Before the expansion could begin, the project would have to be approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, the state Regional Water Control Board, the state Department of Fish and Game and the city of Los Angeles.

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