Plant-Siting Bills Backed 'in Concept'

Times Staff Writer

The City Council voted unanimously this week to support "in concept" two bills in the state Legislature intended to prevent incidents such as a fume leak from a Glendora metal-plating plant that caused 100 children at a nearby school to become ill.

But at its meeting Tuesday night, the council refused to support resolutions drafted by the Bonita Unified School District that would have committed the city to "wholehearted" endorsement of the two bills.

Council members David S. Bodley and Lois Shade balked at what they called imprecise wording in the resolutions. Shade argued that the council should withhold full support of the bills until the county and the League of California Cities take formal positions on the legislation.

Shade also noted that numerous amendments have been made to both bills and urged her colleagues to wait until the legislation is in its final form before offering their support.

"I think before we take a position on a bill, we need to look at it in total," Shade said.

While the merits of the legislation were being debated in Glendora, the San Dimas City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night in favor of the same resolutions endorsing the two bills.

One bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Lancaster (R--Covina), would empower air quality management districts throughout the state to deny an operating permit to a factory located next to a school, hospital or convalescent home if the plant's emissions pose a "potential health hazard."

Lancaster's bill was prompted by an incident earlier this year in which acetic acid fumes leaked from Plato Products Inc. in Glendora and drifted across the city line to Arma J. Shull Elementary School in San Dimas. According to the county Department of Health Services, about 100 children at the school suffered headaches, respiratory problems and nausea as a result of the leak.

The other bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D--Los Angeles) would require cities to conduct a health risk assessment before permitting a new industrial plant to be built within a quarter-mile of a school. School districts would also have to consider the health risk posed by nearby industries when selecting school sites.

Additional Controls

Waters' bill would also empower air pollution control districts to require additional pollution controls for such factories if they are near schools. The impetus for the bill was a 1986 incident in which 28 children at Tweedy Elementary School in South Gate were hospitalized after breathing chlorine vapors released from a nearby plant.

The Glendora council delayed taking a stand on the bills until near the end of its agenda. The item finally came up for discussion after midnight, by which time tempers had become short.

Shade, who has written Lancaster asking him to table his bill, said she was disturbed by the requirement that a health risk survey must be conducted before a factory can be permitted. She said she wanted to ensure that air pollution control districts are not "using the cities to solve their problems and be their scapegoat."

Same Argument

Gene Fisher, intergovernmental affairs officer for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, said Shade's argument was the same one used by the California Council for Environmental and Economic Balance, a pro-industry lobbying group.

The councilwoman's apparent opposition to the bills angered Bonita school board member Sharon Scott, who has lobbied aggressively for passage of both bills. Scott said the intent of the bills is to make cities such as Glendora accountable. In 1984, Glendora granted Plato a building permit without requiring an environmental impact report.

"I've a feeling that the cities that have been accountable and acting responsibly toward their neighbors will not have any opposition (to the bills)," Scott said. "The cities that will be in opposition are those that are concerned with the big bucks they can get by having these facilities."

Glendora officials at the meeting did not respond to that comment.

Shade said the question of what types of industrial plants should be permitted on Glendora's eastern edge, which borders a residential area of San Dimas, should be resolved by a committee composed of representatives from Glendora, San Dimas and the Bonita school district. Shade said she was not sure whether the school district was still committed to working with the committee.

'Serious Problems'

This statement provoked an angry response from Scott, who said district representatives had attended the committee's first and only meeting. "Mrs. Shade," Scott said, "I have serious problems with the way you present your information."

Shade answered that "it's too late to argue," but Councilman Bob Kuhn rebuked Scott for her statements.

"Sharon, you damn near talked me out of supporting this bill with your attitude toward (Shade)," Kuhn said.

Kuhn said he was willing to support the resolutions drafted by the school district, an opinion echoed by Mayor Pro Tem Leonard Martyns and Councilman Larry Glenn. However, Kuhn moved that the council simply express its support "in concept" of the bills to assuage the concerns of Bodley and Shade.

No Retraction

Scott, still disturbed after the meeting, said the council's support was undercut by the letters written by Shade and City Manager James Evans asking Lancaster to stop action on his bill. Shade declined to retract the statements made in her letter to the assemblyman.

"By not rescinding the letter, it's a wash," Scott said.

However, Fisher said he was pleased with the council's unanimous vote, even if its support was equivocal.

"They did go on the record unanimously in support of the bills," Fisher said with a smile. "That's how it will be reported."

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