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L.A. Cites Hardship in Fighting Dump Limits

Times Staff Writer

During a Los Angeles Superior Court hearing scheduled for Wednesday, the city hopes to persuade the judge that limiting operations at Lopez Canyon Landfill will cause unnecessary hardship to all city residents.

And the California Waste Management Board, which in July issued an order restricting the city’s use of the northeast San Fernando Valley dump, hopes to show that allowing the status quo at the landfill to continue will cause even more harm.

The city is seeking a preliminary injunction against imposition of the state order until the full case can be heard. City attorneys won a temporary restraining order against the state Aug. 7.

In legal documents filed Monday with the court, Deputy City Atty. Christopher M. Westhoff said that if the city is forced to reduce dumping at Lopez Canyon, causing at least temporary closure of the landfill, other dumps in the county may not be able to absorb the 4,000 tons of garbage it accepts daily.

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That, he said, will inconvenience everyone with full trash cans.

Agreed With City

Los Angeles County--although technically an opponent of the city in the hearing--agreed with the city. “If Lopez Canyon is not permitted to operate, the entire landfill problem within the basin will be exacerbated,” said David Yamahara, assistant deputy director of public works for Los Angeles County, in a statement submitted to the court.

“There may be insufficient landfill capacity within Los Angeles County to efficiently receive all tonnage now going into Lopez Canyon.”

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The county became involved in the lawsuit because it has policed the dump for the state for the past six years.

Although the city has included the county as a defendant because of its enforcement duties, county health officials have generally supported the city’s side of the case.

However, the state, represented by Deputy Atty. Gen. David A. Eissler, maintains in court documents filed last week that the difficulty and additional cost--which city estimates place at more than $80,000 a day--of finding a place to dump trash instead of Lopez Canyon is outweighed by public health, safety and environmental concerns.

Continued operation of Lopez Canyon at current levels will cause “increased traffic, noise, litter, dust, odor, air emissions and migration of landfill gases,” said John D. Smith, a senior waste management specialist with the state waste board, in his court declaration.

The state has threatened to fine the city $1,000 a day unless dump operations are reduced.

The principal dispute between the city and state is whether garbage height and volume limits at the dump should be set at levels referred to in a 1978 permit or those cited in a 1983 engineering report prepared by the city.

As part of his case, Westhoff submitted letters from the waste management board staff written as recently as April, recognizing the validity of the 1983 report.

Letter’s Advice

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One letter by a state board staff member, Don Dier Jr., advised the city to apply for a new permit, including “by reference the 1983" report.

Eissler said that any questions over validity of the 1983 report became moot Aug. 18, when the state waste board voted to reimpose the 1978 limitations.

He also said the city cannot plead ignorance of the validity of the 1978 limits, because it has enforced similar permit restrictions on private landfills it polices for the state.

Eissler acknowledged that the state should have realized sooner that the city was violating its permit, but wrote that “successful violation of the law . . . does not excuse the city’s violations.”


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