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State grant to fight illegal dumping

The $500,000 goes to a new South L.A. enforcement zone.

June 18, 2008|Robert J. Lopez | Times Staff Writer

In the wake of a Times report that illegal trash dumping is plaguing some of Los Angeles' poorest neighborhoods, state officials announced Tuesday that they would give the city a $500,000 grant to help crack down on violators in the hardest-hit areas.

The grant, from the California Integrated Waste Management Board, will help fund a special enforcement zone in South Los Angeles, where about half of the illegally dumped refuse in the city is discarded.

The award will pay for city prosecutors and community education programs, as well as for clean-up operations and increased surveillance by investigators with the Department of Public Works. The agency maintains city alleys, where a majority of the rubbish is dumped.

Public works officials have blamed budget cuts in recent years for a lack of enforcement that has allowed violators to freely dump trash.

The Times reported Monday that refuse -- including dead animals -- has been allowed to fester for weeks in South L.A. alleys and that arrests for illegal dumping citywide had dropped from 359 in 2002 to just three so far this year. The conditions were documented in photographs and videos.

State officials said the timing of the grant award was coincidental.

"This is a step in the right direction and a welcome bit of good news," said City Councilwoman Jan Perry, whose 9th District has the highest volume of trash left on public byways.

Councilwoman Janice Hahn said she welcomed the grant but added that much more needs to be done, given that taxpayers spent $12 million last year to pay for removing refuse.

"While it helps, it's a drop in the bucket," said Hahn, who represents Watts, where some trash-strewn alleys have gone six weeks or more without being cleaned.

According to the grant application, written by aides to City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo and the city's Environmental Affairs Department, about 80% of those apprehended for illegal dumping have been residents of neighboring cities.

"Much of the illegal dumping activity now occurs in broad daylight," according to the grant application, which was submitted in March.

The application detailed how the environmental impact can reach far beyond the streets and alleys of South Los Angeles. "Illegally dumped oil, grease, paint and trash can enter the storm drains and flow into the Los Angeles River, Ballona Creek or Los Angeles Harbor, thereby polluting the City waterways," the report said.

During 2006 and 2007, the application noted, "1,278 dump truck loads [of refuse] was removed from the City's southeast area" at a cost of more than $1 million.

Even though South L.A. has long been the epicenter of illegal dumping, that area has accounted for only about a third of the arrests made by public works investigators in the last six years, records show.

Kevin A. Gilligan, assistant supervising city attorney who oversees illegal-dumping prosecutions in South L.A., said that the grant would help prosecutions in the most blighted areas.

"We look forward to doing an increased number of prosecutions based on the arrests brought on from the additional surveillance from this grant," Gilligan said.


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