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Lopez Landfill Cited Again as Odors Prompt Complaints

Times Staff Writer

The South Coast Air Quality Management District on Wednesday cited Lopez Canyon Landfill for the second time this month after neighbors complained of odors from the dump over the weekend.

The city of Los Angeles could be fined a maximum $25,000 for the public nuisance citation. It could also face penalties of $25,000 a day for the first citation, based on a March 8 incident in which two workers were overcome by fumes while digging a road through trash at the dump. The landfill did not have a required permit from the district for the excavation.

Investigators do not know what caused the odors, which wafted through Kagel Canyon on Saturday evening and prompted seven residents to complain, said district spokesman Bill Kelly. He said investigators were able to trace the odors to the dump.

Round-the-clock neighborhood air testing, which began in three locations last week because of continued concern over the March 8 incident, may provide answers by the end of this week, he said.

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City Bureau of Sanitation officials did not return repeated telephone calls Wednesday.

Improvement in Response

Landfill neighbors, who have been critical of the district’s response time in the past, said they saw a marked improvement in the agency’s prompt reaction Saturday. However, they complained that citizens must serve as watchdogs for the city-run landfill--instead of city, county or state health and waste authorities.

“You would think that with as many people whose job it is to protect the public welfare, someone else would be blowing the whistle,” said Rob Zapple, a member of the Kagel Canyon Civic Assn. “Instead we, who have other jobs, have to lead them by the hand.”

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Zapple described the odors Saturday as sickly sweet and sometimes acrid.

On March 8, two workers fainted and four others complained of nausea and headaches after uncovering a batch of 1982 trash. One of the workers was hospitalized 11 days for tests. Dr. Robert Goldberg, a physician who works for the city, said no toxic residue was found in the man’s system.

The district believes that the gas responsible for those illnesses may have been toxic hydrogen sulfide, a byproduct of decaying trash and manure. While ground testing detected hydrogen sulfide gas, it could not be definitively linked to the sicknesses because the city failed to report the incident for two days.

District to Determine Fine

Attorneys for the district will decide how much the city must pay for both violations, Kelly said.

After the earlier incident, the California Waste Management Board, which oversees landfills in the state, ordered the dump closed until the cause of the sicknesses could be determined. However, when the county and city balked at that order and district air testing found no dangerous levels of gases, the state withdrew its order.

On Wednesday, state waste-management experts conducted their own ground gas tests on the perimeter of the landfill, spokesman Chris Peck said. Results are expected later this week.


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