With More Trash on Way, Dump's Neighbors Cry Foul

Times Staff Writer

San Fernando Valley residents whose neighborhoods were picked to become Los Angeles' main trash dumping ground for the next five years said Wednesday that the idea stinks.

"We already get the smell of fermenting gases that are released from that dump," said Dennis Ghiatis, who lives near the Lopez Canyon Landfill above Lake View Terrace.

The City Council on Wednesday voted to have the Lopez Canyon Landfill receive another 1,600 tons a day of household trash. The added trash had been going to the soon-to-close Griffith Park dump.

Under the plan, the extra trash will be trucked to the city-owned landfill starting in about two weeks. But city officials said they hope to soon afterward divert part of the rubbish to three other Valley-area dump sites.

Valley to Be Main Dump Site

The council action means that virtually all of the 1.3 million tons of household rubbish generated yearly in Los Angeles will end up at Valley-area landfills through 1990. The dumping is expected to diminish after that, however, when the city begins operating plants that burn trash to generate energy.

The Kagel Canyon Civic Assn., of which Ghiatis is a director, had opposed increased dumping at the Lopez Canyon Landfill on the grounds that is already unappealing and unsafe. About 1,000 people live in the Kagel Canyon neighborhood, he said.

Stormy weather brings trash-laden landfill runoff water cascading down mountain gullies around the landfill, Ghiatis said. It also causes "ponding," in which water collects, then seeps through buried trash and into the Valley's underground water table, he said.

"The last time we had a real heavy rain, trash came down . . . Kagel Canyon Road and into yards," said Betty Rockwell, a Lake View Terrace resident who is a leader of the Lake View Terrace Improvement Assn., which also has fought expanded use of the landfill. "It was quite a mess after that rain. To find a bunch of stuff like old disposable diapers in your yard is not too swift."

11-2 Council Vote

The homeowners were backed by East Valley council members Howard Finn and Ernarni Bernardi, who opposed the extra Lopez Canyon dumping in Wednesday's 11-2 council vote.

The council plan calls for the city to negotiate with Los Angeles County for additional trash-dumping rights at the Scholl Canyon Landfill in Glendale and the Calabasas Landfill in Agoura. The city also will contract with a private firm that runs a commercial dump in Sunshine Canyon above Granada Hills.

"I don't know why it's OK to dump on Lopez Canyon, on the people of Lake View Terrace," Finn said during council debate. He said he is concerned that, once the city steps up its Lopez Canyon dumping, sanitation officials will not cut back the pace, even after the first of three proposed $200-million trash-conversion plants is built.

At Finn's urging, the council approved an amendment promising that the city will not try to enlarge the Lopez Canyon Landfill site without council review.

Bernardi complained that the city's position has turned into one of "dump everything in Lopez Canyon" now that Griffith Park's Toyon Canyon Landfill is being shut down.

No Policy Change

"I don't think the city did anything to change its policy of more and more relying on the San Fernando Valley as the place to dump its rubbish," he said.

City sanitation officials were unavailable late Wednesday to respond to the homeowners' complaints about runoff and odor.

But Delwin A. Biagi, director of the city's bureau of sanitation, said after the council vote that he hopes that "now everybody will get behind" the plan to build trash-burning plants. One of the three plants being proposed would be built in the Valley at an as-yet undesignated site, he said.

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