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Court Rejects L.A.'s Move to Halt State Landfill Curbs

Times Staff Writer

A Superior Court judge refused Monday to grant a request by the city of Los Angeles to block state restrictions on Lopez Canyon Landfill, which city officials say could force the dump to close within a year.

However, Judge Dzintra I. Janavs made it clear that she expects operations at the Lake View Terrace 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, Janavs ordered the case continued until Aug. 4.

“I don’t think I really need to issue a temporary restraining order because nothing is really going to happen before August,” the judge said.

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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, that drastically limits the height and acreage of trash in the 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 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. It’s simply a request,” Fries said.

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However, the state does have the authority to step in and impose the restrictions itself, said Christopher Peck, spokesman for the state waste board. Peck said the board would await the county’s decision before deciding whether to take that action.

But Peck pointed out that board members were adamant in a hearing Friday in Sacramento that they want to see 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 that 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 set the limit at 3,100 tons a day.

In defense, 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.

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“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.”

Outside the courtroom after Monday’s hearing, Peck asked Westhoff what contingency plans the city has if the order sticks.

“What contingency plan?” Westhoff responded. “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 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. Currently 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.

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