More than 300 Hacienda Heights residents opposed expansion of the Puente Hills landfill at a county Planning Commission hearing last week.
The 1,365-acre facility, the second-largest landfill in the United States, is scheduled to shut down in November. The dump's managers, the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, want to keep the landfill open until the year 2013 and expand it eastward to within 1,250 feet of a residential area.
At a hearing Wednesday night in Hacienda Heights, commissioners listened to a steady stream of residents criticize a 3,000-page environmental impact report produced by the Sanitation Districts. Residents claimed the report downplayed the effects of the proposed expansion on air and water quality, animals and landscape.
"In many aspects, this is not an EIR for a proposed project but a sales brochure," said Jeff Dintzer, an attorney representing the local school district and Hacienda Heights Improvement Assn., a residents group, in a lawsuit filed this month in Los Angeles Superior Court. A hearing on the suit, which seeks to invalidate the environmental report, is scheduled May 3.
Assn. President Jeff Yann, a Southern California Edison civil engineer, accused sanitation officials of not looking for alternatives to the landfill expansion to increase the chance of obtaining the permit.
"Remember, this decision will affect people's lives for the next 20 years," he said.
Dump managers say almost a third of the county's trash goes to the Puente Hills landfill, and its closure in November would leave 60 cities scrambling to find alternatives. Theresa Dodge, an engineer representing the Sanitation Districts, said expansion opponents failed to suggest a viable alternative to the landfill.
"We don't want to do land-filling, but what are we going to do with the stuff?" she said after the meeting.
Expansion plans would allow an additional 75 million tons of trash at Puente Hills during the next two decades. The project also calls for construction of a materials recovery and rail-loading facility, or MRF. This facility would separate and recycle trash and load leftover waste onto rail cars for disposal out of the county.
The hearing was held to gather comment from project opponents.
Hacienda Heights resident Robert Isaacson said he feared that a mound of trash towering over the canyon hills would be visible to the community.
Amateur naturalist Bonnie Heimbecher said expansion would destroy hundreds of oak trees and an entire ecosystem that includes deer and mountain lions.
And Dave Johns, an Edison engineer who lives near the landfill, expressed concern that the plastic and clay lining planned underneath the dump could leak pollutants into ground water.
House sales near the dump often fall through, and houses spend months longer on the market, testified realtor Martha Calder. "Time after time, people back out after hearing about the dump," she said.
Local politicians were divided over the dump expansion. While a spokesman for state Assemblywoman Hilda Solis voiced her opposition, Whittier Mayor Robert Henderson and spokesmen for state Sen. Frank Hill and Assemblywoman Grace Napolitano voiced support if homeowners are compensated for any loss in property values and if parkland is purchased in Hacienda Heights and Whittier Hills from a surcharge on dump trucks.
A second public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday at the County Hall of Records.