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Trash Hauler’s Conditional Pledge to Use Landfill Worries Officials

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Anaheim trash hauler that created a crisis when it abruptly pulled its business out of Orange County last month appears to be backtracking from its unconditional pledge to return, county officials said Friday.

Vincent Taormina, the chief executive officer of Anaheim Disposal, said in a letter obtained Friday that his company has agreed to return its business to the county landfill “as a sign of good faith,” but only on a month-to-month basis and only as part of broader negotiations with county officials.

“It’s a bunch of garbage,” said Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder. “It sounds a little bit like blackmail. I’m very disappointed.”

Taormina’s letter comes at the end of several chaotic weeks in the county’s waste-management system. Officials were stunned in mid-July to discover that Anaheim Disposal had begun sending most of the 2,500 tons of garbage that it collects every day to a private landfill in West Covina.

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Anaheim Disposal normally brings its trash to the county-run Olinda landfill near Brea, and losing that garbage to West Covina would cost Orange County roughly $12 million a year in gate fees. That sum was so large that it threatened to break the waste-management budget. County officials contemplated soliciting Los Angeles garbage to make up the difference.

After news of the West Covina deal became public, however, Board of Supervisors Chairman Gaddi H. Vasquez led an effort to woo the company back. Taormina then issued a statement saying that his firm intended to return its business to the county landfill in September.

“We have made a corporate decision to re-utilize the Orange County landfills beginning Sept. 1,” Taormina said in a prepared statement released Aug. 15. “We feel this decision, over the short and long term, will be in the best interest of the customers we serve as well as Orange County as a whole.”

The letter obtained Friday--and an attached memorandum sent to city managers of the cities that Anaheim Disposal serves--reiterates the company’s intention to return Sept. 1, but this time qualifies it.

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In the memo to city officials, Taormina states: “You have directed my firm, as of Sept. 1, 1991, and for a period not to exceed one calendar month, to begin to once again utilize the Brea-Olinda landfill.”

The decision to return, the memo adds, “is made as a sign of good faith toward working with the County of Orange and is intended to display your desire to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution for all parties.”

A decision on whether to keep using the county landfills “is dependent upon the results of the meetings to be held within the next 30 days,” the memo states.

Taormina was out of town Friday and unavailable for comment, as was Vasquez.

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County officials who have reviewed the document, however, said they were glad to have the company’s business back but concerned by the memo’s implied threat.

“There is obviously a concern that this is a month-to-month issue,” said Vicki Wilson, assistant director of the Integrated Waste Management Department. “This is a good starting point, but we have a ways to go.”

Wieder agreed, adding that she was concerned that the letter also reflected the views of city officials in Anaheim, Brea, Garden Grove, Placentia and Yorba Linda. Those are the cities served by Anaheim Disposal. They met with Taormina Aug. 27, according to the memo.

“I’m always very disappointed when I see some of the cities set themselves up in an adversarial role, and that’s what this seems to do,” Wieder said. “But if they’re out to pick a fight, they’re going to get one.”

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