Owners Refuse Access to Potential Toxic-Dump Sites

From the Associated Press

The owners of two potential toxic-dump sites will not permit Los Angeles County officials on their property to determine whether the sites are suitable for landfills, and legal action has been authorized.

The owners of the sprawling Tejon Ranch said a dump site there would be too close to the San Andreas Fault and the Quail Lake reservoir, from which Los Angeles draws drinking water.

County supervisors have authorized the county counsel to seek court orders permitting geologists and other specialists onto the property, but Assistant County Counsel William Pellman said officials still hope that they can negotiate access without going to court.

The other prime site, in Potrero Canyon near Newhall, is in an area of oil-field exploration, and is owned by Newhall Land and Farming. Company officials could not be reached for comment.

The county has been pressed to establish a hazardous-waste landfill since the BKK landfill in West Covina closed in November, 1984. Generators of hazardous waste now must haul their refuse at least 200 miles to disposal sites in Kings or Santa Barbara counties.

Tejon Ranch officials contend that the county favored political considerations over safety issues in its inclusion of Oso Canyon on the ranch as one of the prime sites. The cattle ranch hired attorney Joel Moscowitz to fight the landfill.

Moscowitz once served as the state's deputy director for toxic substance control. He and Tejon Ranch predict environmental disaster if the county selects that property.

"Local protesters have been the force that has killed previously proposed toxic-waste sites," Moscowitz said. "The best way to get a site approved is to get one with the least number of protesters. But in this case, the laws of nature may conflict with the laws of politics."

The company's major concerns:

- The site is upstream from and within two miles of the state aqueduct system and Quail Lake, "parts of the major system delivering water to Southern California."

- The site is close to the intersection of the San Andreas and Garlock earthquake faults.

- It has plentiful ground water that routinely is pumped out of Oso Creek into the aqueduct.

Kieran Bergin, division engineer for the county sanitation districts, said both proposed sites are "reasonably isolated" from populated areas.

He said potential ground-water contamination is a concern "almost any place you have to look in the county."

Bergin said officials believe that the Oso Canyon site is usable but need to take core samples to get an idea of the underlying strata and the water permeability of the soil and rocks.

In a report released in September, county authorities also selected a site in the northeast Antelope Valley, near Hi Vista, and the Rosamond dry lake bed on Edwards Air Force Base as potential hazardous-waste repositories.

However, the Department of Defense balked at use of the air base, and the Antelope Valley location, like the Oso and Potrero sites, needs additional geologic study, the report said.

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