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Protest Strands 140 Trash Trucks : Lopez Canyon Blocked Again

Times Staff Writer

Protesters blocked the Lopez Canyon Landfill entrance for four hours Wednesday morning, stranding 140 full trash trucks along three miles of city streets and remaining until Los Angeles police threatened to arrest them for illegal assembly.

The 42 participants declared this, their third protest of a proposed landfill expansion, a success and vowed to return again.

“We are tired of being the dump of the city of Los Angeles,” said Jose DeSosa, state president of the NAACP and long-time Pacoima activist.

City sanitary engineer Malcolm Toy said the city decided to “just be patient” rather than reroute the trucks to private landfills as was done during the Feb. 23 protest. Toy said the protest might have forced the drivers to skip garbage pickup in some Los Angeles neighborhoods Wednesday, although he said that would not be known until today.

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In a related development, the South Coast Air Quality Management District on Wednesday cited the landfill for garbage excavation that released fumes that sickened two workers March 8.

AQMD Permit

The excavation was being completed without the necessary AQMD permit, said spokesman Bill Kelly. The maximum fine for the violation is $25,000, Kelly said.

One worker fainted and another was hospitalized March 8 after unearthing a layer of garbage, which Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar) said might have contained hazardous hydrogen sulfide gas. The AQMD will begin setting up air sampling equipment at the landfill this week to determine what the gas was, Kelly said.

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Worker Keith O’Kray, 33, of Newhall, remains at St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, where he was listed in stable condition.

Katz asked the city Bureau of Sanitation to close the dump while circumstances surrounding the incident are investigated. In a letter sent Tuesday to city sanitation director Delwin Biaggi, Katz accused the city of trying to downplay the incident by not releasing information about it until Friday.

However, Toy defended the delay in public notification concerning the accident, saying that city officials did not realize until last Thursday that the two workers’ illnesses were linked.

“There was not a cover-up,” he said. “It was just due to the way the events unfolded.”

Lopez Canyon, which opened in 1975 as a county landfill, accepts more than half the city’s household garbage--4,000 tons a day. Although the landfill originally was to be closed in 1992, recently the city proposed keeping it open until 2005 and doubling its capacity.


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