The California Waste Management Board on Thursday directed Los Angeles County to close down Lopez Canyon Landfill near Lake View Terrace until testing determines whether fumes that sickened city sanitation workers last week continue to be dangerous to workers and nearby residents.
However, an official with the county Health Department, which acts as the state’s local agent for landfill review, refused to carry out the order. In a letter to the state, Charles Coffee, director of solid waste management, said he did not believe there was “sufficient evidence of a threat” to close down the city’s only public landfill, even temporarily.
Delwin Biagi, director of the city’s Bureau of Sanitation, agreed.
“If we . . . thought there was a safety concern of any scope, we’d close it down immediately,” he said. “We see what happened as an isolated incident.”
On March 8, a bulldozer excavating a road unearthed a layer of trash buried in 1982. Two workers fainted and were hospitalized, and several others reported dizziness and headaches. One of the workers, Keith O’Kray, 33, of Newhall, remains hospitalized.
The exact cause of the illnesses has not yet been determined.
Lopez Canyon, near Lake View Terrace, handles more than half of the 7,000 tons of trash thrown away every day in Los Angeles. If it is closed, Biagi said the three private landfills the city uses will not be able to handle the surplus. Households across the city can expect reduced trash pickup, he said.