City Rejects IT Appeal on Waste Plant

Times Staff Writer

The appeal of a shutdown order served to one of IT Corp.'s largest hazardous-waste facilities has been turned down by Los Angeles officials, who said the plant has been operating illegally since it was constructed in the early 1950s.

In a decision issued Monday by chief zoning administrator Franklin P. Eberhard, the city upheld a Dec. 6 order by the Department of Building and Safety that required IT Corp. to halt hazardous-waste operations at the Wilmington site because its property zoning does not permit such activities.

The shutdown order was served when city officials discovered the existence of the hazardous-waste facility in December--after hazardous-waste operations had been conducted for more than 30 years at the Wilmington location. Local officials were alerted only after the state Department of Health Services announced its intention to issue a permanent environmental permit for the plant at 221 East D St.

All Activities in Violation

The state granted the facility an interim environmental permit for treatment, storage and transfer of hazardous wastes in 1981.

Eberhard said in his decision that the hazardous-waste treatment facility "is not now and never has been a permitted use on that site." He said that transfer and storage activities--which he called the facility's "accessory uses"--are also prohibited on the site, which is zoned for light industry.

He added, "IT Corp. and former companies owning (or) operating the facility have, probably unknowingly, been operating the waste treatment facility illegally since it was constructed sometime in the early 1950s."

No building permit was ever issued for construction of a treatment facility on the site, Eberhard said in his four-page decision.

IT Corp., the largest company in the United States dealing exclusively with hazardous materials, operates 35 facilities nationwide. The Wilmington plant, run by IT since 1981 and previously by other hazardous-waste operators, is one of company's largest centers for hazardous-waste trucking operations.

In addition to this week's city action, IT Corp. faces a decision on a similar appeal involving its other Wilmington facility, at 336 W. Anaheim St. That operation, established in 1926, also was served city shutdown orders for a zoning conflict.

'Legally Established' Use

Eberhard could not be reached for comment on when he expects to make a decision on the appeal involving the Anaheim Street facility.

The company had appealed both shutdown orders on grounds it believed the current zoning permitted the handling of hazardous wastes. And more, the company maintained, even if the current zoning did not permit such activities, the longevity of IT's operation made it a "legally established" use.

IT Senior Vice President John T. Schofield said he was unsure whether his company will fight the city's decision. The company has until Feb. 19 to file for a hearing with the Board of Zoning Appeals.

"That question is open for interpretation by our legal counsel right now," Schofield said. "We thought we were covered by the zoning, and we assumed that since we got a state permit we were allowed to be doing what we've been doing."

Schofield added, "We originally got into business (at the Anaheim Street facility in 1926) when there wasn't any zoning and there wasn't such a thing as hazardous waste. We've always been good neighbors, we've always run a good operation. That's why we feel pretty bad about this."

The block-long IT plant on D Street, which is the headquarters for 63 hazardous-waste-hauling trucks, receives most of its waste from such heavy industries as petroleum refineries. The company uses the site to consolidate and treat much of the waste before the materials are shipped to disposal sites.

According to Schofield, the city's decision will not severely affect the company's handling of wastes generated by larger industries because IT's trucks could be scheduled to proceed directly from industrial generators to disposal sites.

Schofield said, however, that the company faces a severe problem with its smaller hazardous-waste generators and emergency response operations. IT Corp. operates an emergency vehicle that responds to chemical spills and other hazardous-waste-related accidents.

Higher Costs Predicted

"How are we going to service the smaller generators?" Schofield asked. "And what do we do when we handle situations where an emergency response vehicle comes back with a small amount of waste?"

He added, "Without being allowed to consolidate into larger loads, transportation costs will increase very substantially . . . (and) it certainly increases the risk that some generators will dispose of their materials in other ways."

The city decision has drawn praise from Wilmington residents who have been battling against the presence of hazardous-waste facilities in their community of 42,500 for two years. Wilmington has six state-approved hazardous-waste facilities.

"I feel very good about this," said resident Charles Stevenson, a chemical engineer and member of the Harbor Coalition Against Toxic Waste. "The city seems to be behind us now. Local zoning was ignored completely in this case, and that should have never happened."

Said Jo Ann Wysocki, president of the coalition, "I'm really happy. It is beyond my comprehension how a company that says it is a leader in hazardous-waste operations could build and not be aware of where it was building. I have to have serious reservations about city government, too, when there are so many departments issuing so many permits for the facilities and someone didn't figure out they were violating the zoning laws."

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