PLATFORM : The Landfill Numbers: Fact or Fiction?

The operating permit of the Lopez Canyon Landfill near Lake View Terrace expires in 1996, but city sanitation officials have recommended extending its life until 2000, saying this would save $72 million in trash-hauling costs.

City Councilman RICHARD ALARCON is leading the fight on City Council against the extension. He told The Times:

Three years ago the Board of Public Works promised to close the Lopez Canyon Landfill in 1996. The promise was written into the City Council's conditions for the landfill's permit. Condition No. 6 says the permit will expire in 1996 "with no further extensions or authorizations."

Now the Bureau of Sanitation board says closing the dump may be too costly. It wants to keep Lopez open just "a little longer."

My position has not changed. Lopez Canyon should close on schedule.

First let's get our facts straight.

Fiction: The Bureau of Sanitation states in its draft Sanitation Operations Strategy Plan that the city pays only $12 a ton to dump trash into Lopez Canyon. It sounds pretty cheap.

Fact: Their numbers are inaccurate. The city spends $14 million a year to dump trash at Lopez Canyon. But that amount only gets it from the gate to the dump. It costs the city an additional $8 million to transport about half the total trash that goes to Lopez Canyon from the transfer site downtown to the gate of Lopez Canyon. Since the city dumps 1 million tons, simple math says we pay a minimum of $22 a ton, not $12. I stress minimum because the cost it takes to transport the other half of our trash to the dump is unknown. The bureau is now having to redo that part of its report because its numbers were inaccurate.

As we recycle more in the next few years as mandated by the state, trash will be reduced and the cost to the city will increase.

Fiction: In the same draft report, the bureau compares the "$12 a ton to dump into Lopez Canyon" to $51 a ton that it estimates it would cost to haul by rail.

Fact: The $51 figure is wrong. After the earthquake, a company made a proposal to the city to haul debris by rail to remote sites for $38 a ton.

I believe we must look at alternatives such as advanced material recovery facilities and rail haul. The city is in the final stages of issuing a request for proposals and request for bids to provide alternatives to let us see what it will really cost us.

The fact is we've known for years that landfills are filling up. We've known for years that Lopez Canyon is going to close. The time for long-term solutions to our trash problems is now.

Let's waste no more time. Let's base our facts on real numbers before making a rash decision to break a promise to the community. That's just plain wrong.

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