L.A. Loses Court Test Over Landfill : Judge Rejects Request to Block State’s Restrictions on Lopez Canyon Dump
A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge refused Monday to block state restrictions on Lopez Canyon Landfill, which Los Angeles officials say could force the dump to close within a year.
However, Judge Dzintra I. Janavs made it clear that she expected operations at the dump, where two-thirds of the city’s household trash is taken, to continue until the court rules on the rest of the city’s case against the state Waste Management Board and the county Health Department.
After denying the city’s request for a temporary restraining order, she ordered the case continued and scheduled a hearing for Aug. 4.
“I don’t think I really need to issue a temporary restraining order because nothing is really going to happen before August,” Janavs said.
Return to Court
Deputy City Atty. Christopher M. Westhoff said he would return to court “as fast as my feet can get me over here” if the state follows through with its order, issued last week, which drastically limits the height and acreage for trash in the Lake View Terrace dump.
The dump accepts about 4,000 tons of trash daily. Several private landfills and a county dump in Calabasas take the rest.
Monday’s ruling increases pressure on the county Health Department, which has been asked by the state to enforce the order by Friday.
Deputy County Counsel Judith A. Fries said no decision has been reached on whether the county will carry out the state’s wishes.
“There’s no question that the state does not have the authority to order us to take any action,” Fries said. “It’s simply a request.”
However, the state does have the authority to step in and impose the restrictions itself, said Christopher Peck, spokesman for the state Waste Management Board. Peck said the board would await the county’s decision before deciding whether to impose the restrictions.
Peck pointed out that board members were adamant at a hearing Friday in Sacramento that they wanted landfill operations scaled back to levels agreed to in 1978, when the dump’s permit was issued.
The original permit limited trash mounds to 1,725 feet high and said 400 trucks or fewer a day could dump on only 140 acres of the 392-acre site. The board conceded that a limit of 8,000 tons of trash a month included in that permit was probably a typographical error and raised the limit to 3,100 tons a day.
The city maintains that the county Health Department and the state misled city Bureau of Sanitation officials to believe that an engineering report submitted in 1983 updated the permit to allow more dumping. That report increased the tonnage to 4,075 tons, the height to more than 1,740 feet and the number of trucks to 500, which is close to present-day practice.
“All parties were operating within the same parameters,” Westhoff said. “It’s only now, six years later, that the Waste Management Board seeks to overturn that 1983 document and in essence turn the clocks back.”
The state maintains it requested that report merely to determine if the dump was safe after a rainstorm. Peck said the city never asked that the report be integrated into the permit, which would have required an environmental impact report and public hearings.
Outside the courtroom after Monday’s hearing, Peck asked Westhoff what contingency plans the city has if the order sticks.
Responded Westhoff: “What contingency plan? We’re going to have our trucks rushing to landfills to try to beat other trucks from other cities.”
On Friday, Edward Avila, president of the city Board of Public Works, said that if the state order stands, Lopez Canyon would be able to remain open for only about a year, after a temporary two-month shutdown to prepare a new area for dumping. The dump is scheduled to remain open until 1992 and the city is preparing a proposal to expand it and extend its life through at least 2001.
Avila said the Calabasas Landfill and private dumps--at Sunshine Canyon above Granada Hills, Bradley West Landfill in Sunland and a BKK Corp. facility in West Covina--would be able to accept the Lopez Canyon trash for a while. But he said that using those dumps would cause them to fill up sooner, accelerating the city’s garbage crisis.