Engineers hired by the state to clean out Fullerton's McColl toxic waste dump said Friday that excavation could begin within two months, but where the 200,000 tons of waste will be taken has become more uncertain than ever.
State officials in charge of the cleanup had been planning to truck the waste 200 miles to the Casmalia Resources dump in Santa Barbara County.
Last month, however, the dump's general partner, Ken Hunter Jr., refused to commit himself to accepting the waste. Last week, he said he was raising his fee from $30 a ton to $140, according to Tom Donovan, McColl project manager for Canonie Engineers, the cleanup contractor.
Fee Increase Unexpected
"It wasn't something that we expected," Donovan said. "We had thought there was an agreement on price."
Neither Hunter nor any other spokesman for his company could be reached for comment Friday.
Steve Viani, McColl project officer for the state Department of Health Services, said he will meet with Donovan Monday to discuss alternatives. He said that there are only a few dumps capable of receiving the toxic waste and named three as possible alternatives: the Chemical Waste Management dump near Coalinga, Petroleum Waste Inc. near Bakersfield and the I T Corp. dump at Westmorland in the Imperial Valley.
Donovan said, however, that because of 1984 amendments to the federal Resource, Conservation and Recovery Act, toxic waste dumps must have lined pits to protect ground water from seepage.
"Disposal rates are going to go up everywhere," Donovan said. "I'm not sure the prices are going to be the same as Casmalia, but I assume they will be close."
Donovan said that use of Casmalia is not out of the question. "I know the state is interested in keeping all roads open," he said.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency expected disposal rates to increase because of the new requirements and recently alloted an additional $6 million to the McColl cleanup.
Both Donovan and Viani said they expect to have the matter settled within a month. If they are successful, the project will not be delayed significantly, Donovan said.
Predicts Starting Time
"We feel we're looking at six weeks to two months to actually starting," he added.
"Some of the delay so far has occurred in completion of the Phase 1 contract (site preparation). I believe that will be formally completed the middle of next week. After that, we have about a month's preparatory work that we'd have to do anyway," he said.
Actual elimination of the Casmalia dump presumably would make moot a lawsuit filed by Santa Barbara County, which is seeking to block transfer of the toxic waste until an environmental impact study is conducted.
The first hearing on the county's petition for a writ of mandate is scheduled for next Friday in Santa Barbara Superior Court.