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Major County Landfill to Be Closed : Trash: Sunshine Canyon’s permit expires today. Expansion will allow the dump to reopen in January, but it faces a court challenge.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

One of Los Angeles County’s largest garbage dumps will temporarily shut down when its city permit expires at 4:30 p.m. today, detouring trucks carrying about 4,500 tons of trash a day to other sites and further stressing the region’s landfills.

“It pushes us closer to popping the seams,” said Steve Maguin, chief of the solid waste management department of the County Sanitation Districts.

Sunshine Canyon Landfill, located above Granada Hills on land that straddles the city border, is expected to remain closed until at least January, when a section of the dump will be ready to receive trash under a county-approved expansion permit.

But a lawsuit filed against Los Angeles County by the City of Los Angeles seeks to overturn the county’s expansion approval, which would create a situation Maguin and others described as far more serious. That suit is scheduled to be heard in Superior Court in mid-October.

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The Los Angeles City Council has sought to permanently shut the dump because of persistent protests from neighbors and environmentalists, who say the dump generates dust, odors and heavy truck traffic. Also, if expanded, it will destroy an oak forest.

Opened in 1958 by Browning-Ferris Industries, Sunshine Canyon Landfill has received more than 4,000 tons of garbage daily in recent years. Countywide, 43,000 tons of trash is generated each day.

During the months that Sunshine Canyon is closed, garbage will be rerouted to the three nearest landfills: Chiquita Canyon west of Santa Clarita, Bradley West in Sun Valley and the BKK landfill in West Covina, officials said.

The amount of garbage hauled daily to the Chiquita Canyon more than doubled early this month, from 2,000 tons daily to 4,500, as haulers switched landfills in anticipation of the Sunshine closure, said Rod Walter, manager of the Chiquita Canyon landfill. Chiquita can handle 5,000 tons of trash daily, he said.

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The other two dumps have not yet experienced increased daily use, officials said.

Last February, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a plan to nearly double the size of the Sunshine landfill, expanding onto more than 200 acres of the oak-filled canyon. Before disposal can begin, trees must be removed and a gas extraction system installed.

The Los Angeles City Council has denied Browning-Ferris’ request to expand onto city land. In response, the county added a provision to pressure city officials to reverse the decision. The county stipulated that if the City Council does not approve future dumping inside city limits, city garbage will be completely banned from the landfill in January, 1993.

Even if the county-side expansion of Sunshine Canyon proceeds, the county could run out of landfill space in 1993, Maguin said. A proposal to add another huge landfill to Elsmere Canyon, near Santa Clarita, remains in preliminary planning stages, as do programs for using trains to haul Los Angeles’s garbage to a remote, desert site.

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Dump opponents see even a temporary closure of Sunshine as an important milestone in their quest to shut down the landfill.

“When the gates close we’re going to toot our horns and yell and everything,” said Mary Edwards, spokeswoman for the North Valley Coalition, a group of neighboring homeowners and environmentalists who have opposed the landfill expansion.

Browning-Ferris officials this week, during a tour of the dump highlighted by stops at an oak tree nursery, used the closure as an opportunity to urge the city to reconsider the expansion and to rapidly resolve the lawsuit.

“You’re going to have 4,000 tons of refuse hitting the streets,” said Dean Wise, district manager of Sunshine Canyon. “That’s going to mean higher . . . fees. . . . It may put other landfills in violations of their operating permits.”

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Community concerns about the expansion are “more psychological than anything else,” added Lynn Wessell, a consultant hired to handle public relations for Browning Ferris Industries. “This is the one of the most remote landfill sites around . . . we don’t impact anyone.”

But a spokesman for Councilman Hal Bernson, who represents the area, disagreed.

“They’ve been there 30 years, they’ve done their damage to the environment, they’ve been bad neighbors . . . we’re not going to allow a permit,” said Greig Smith, Bernson’s chief deputy.

Smith said the county’s attempt to pressure the city, which he called “blackmail,” had only succeeded in “damaging what was beginning to be a good working relationship between the city and the county” over waste disposal.

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