Hazardous Waste Site Problems Collecting : Disposal: It will be at least two years before permanent locations can start accepting household toxic wastes. Officials suspect some of the material is ending up in Lopez Canyon.


Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation efforts to establish five permanent disposal sites for household hazardous wastes such as motor oil, bleaches and paints are being delayed by budget problems, bureaucratic foot-dragging and, perhaps, even resistance from city departments, officials said.

Until such disposal sites are established--which sanitation officials now admit might not be until late 1992--household toxics will continue to be collected through city-sponsored waste “roundups” at various temporary sites.

But the city has conducted only nine such roundups in the past 18 months and officials suspect that much of the waste is dumped down household drains and storm sewers and in garbage that ends up at the city’s landfill in Lopez Canyon. And now even the roundups--costing at least $250,000 each, depending partly on the volume of materials disposed of--are being limited by worries over their expense.

A report adopted last month by the City Council ordered the Bureau of Sanitation to schedule no more waste roundups after June until the cost of the one-day events has been analyzed and alternative collection, recycling and reclamation methods studied. The council did, however, authorize a roundup for June 2 in Reseda.


The Council voted last week to budget $957,000 for three additional roundups during the 1990-91 budget year that begins July 1--half the number the Bureau of Sanitation thought necessary. But the money is set aside in an account that requires the bureau to gain approval from the city’s chief administrative office and the City Council before it is allowed to spend the money.

Dee Carey, a city budget office chief analyst, said the money will not be released until the Bureau of Sanitation has studied the costs of the roundups and analyzed alternatives that might be cheaper. The toxics are now transported to dumps specially equipped to handle them.

Meanwhile, concern over delays in the efforts to establish the permanent sites is rising. Observers fear that the household hazardous waste program, and the project to establish the permanent depots, is understaffed, under-financed and has become something of an unwanted stepchild at City Hall.

“What this program needs is a champion. No one is really watching over it,” complained Barbara Fine, chairwoman of the city’s Solid Waste Citizens Advisory Group. “Right now, it’s totally inadequate.”

Councilwoman Joy Picus told city sanitation officials last month that she was “really disappointed” by the program. Permanent city-operated depots--where homeowners could take their household hazardous wastes any day of the week--"should have already been located,” she said.

Instead, Picus was told by Mike Miller, Bureau of Sanitation assistant director, that setting up the permanent sites on city-owned property is at least two years away.

The board of public works endorsed the permanent site project in January, when it was told the sites would be operating by January, 1992.

Among the problems of finding disposal sites is expected opposition from city employees, said Carl Haase, who heads the Bureau of Sanitation’s hazardous waste unit. Last week Haase told the city Board of Public Works, which oversees the bureau, that “household hazardous waste has a bad ring to it.”

The irony of that statement was not lost on the neighbors of the city-owned Lopez Canyon landfill in Lake View Terrace. They contend that City Hall inertia means that tons of such toxics are continuing to be trucked into the dump as part of regular garbage disposal.

It’s “incredibly insensitive and hypocritical” for the city to tell residents near the dump that the landfill is safe while admitting that city departments may resist having household hazardous waste depots at their facilities, said Rob Zapple, a sharp critic of the city’s solid waste management policies.

Councilmen Ernani Bernardi and Joel Wachs are also unhappy that the city is not further along in efforts to find a permanent solution to disposing of household chemicals such as paint, paint removers and insecticides. The Lopez Canyon dump is in Bernardi’s district and next to Wachs’ district.

“We’ve got to get off the dime,” Bernardi told Miller last month during a City Council review of the household hazardous waste program.

Although unlawful, homeowners, without a convenient alternative, often mix hazardous wastes with regular household garbage. No one has a firm fix on how much such toxic waste is going into Lopez Canyon, but the city has begun to sample the contents of three of the approximately 400 truckloads that go into the dump daily.

The results of these state-required inspections have not yet been compiled, Haase recently told the Board of Public Works.

Beginning last year, the city offered the Saturday toxics roundup events as an alternative. But the Bureau of Sanitation must conduct the studies requested by the chief administrative office and City Council if the roundups are to continue.

Completion of those studies, Haase said last week, could be months away because the bureau is understaffed. Haase said he intends to seek additional money from the City Council to hire four staff members to conduct the studies for the household hazardous waste unit.

One key component of the studies will be the establishment of a pilot disposal site east of downtown Los Angeles at 452 San Fernando Road. That site will help the city compare the cost and effectiveness of permanent sites to that of the roundups.

Some believe that the permanent sites would not be convenient enough to encourage residents to use them. Better yet would be curbside pickup of household hazardous wastes by city crews, Zapple said.

Phyllis Hines, a leader with the Lake View Terrace Improvement Assn. homeowners group, said the city is “not doing enough” to make it easy for residents to safely dispose of their household hazardous waste.

“The roundups are successful, but how many other families are not going to them?” she said. “For every one family who brings in their wastes, there’s got to be 15 who are not, and their stuff has got to be going somewhere.

“We’ve got to make the disposal of this so easy that people can get rid of it whenever they want,” Hines said. “Otherwise, it’s just going to end up in Lopez.”