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Challenges Could Extend Battle Over Sunshine Canyon Landfill

Times Staff Writer

Sunshine Canyon Landfill’s operators, as well as its opponents, have filed petitions challenging a regional water board’s decision to allow the dump to expand into Granada Hills, officials said Friday.

The filings could extend a decadelong battle among residents, politicians and landfill owner Browning-Ferris Industries over a plan to develop a 450-acre landfill within the Los Angeles city limits in the north San Fernando Valley.

The landfill currently occupies 1,100 acres in unincorporated territory.

The California Water Resources Control Board will review both petitions to determine if there is sufficient evidence to move forward with public hearings on the regional board’s findings, Dennis Dickerson, the regional water board’s executive director, said Friday.

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Browning-Ferris wants state water regulators to remove two provisions in the permit granted by the regional water board on Dec. 4.

Meanwhile, the North Valley Coalition of Concerned Citizens, a Granada Hills group of neighbors and activists opposed to the expansion, is appealing to the state to revoke the operating permit. They contend the permit fails to protect the public from threats to water quality.

In its petition filed Monday, Browning-Ferris executives objected to a requirement to install a double-liner system, which consists of two 60-millimeter high-density polyethylene sheets and two 2-foot layers of clay, to prevent contaminants from seeping into groundwater. Federal environmental law requires landfills to use only one 60-millimeter polyethylene sheet and one 2-foot layer of clay.

Company officials said a double-liner system would add $15 million to the cost of the project.

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In addition, company officials dispute a provision that would allow water regulators to review, amend or possibly revoke the permit if there is sufficient evidence that the landfill poses a risk to public health or water quality. They argue that the board overstepped its jurisdiction when it considered health issues that were not related to water quality.

“We believe that [these] conditions do not add a quantifiable level of additional protection to the environment, are unnecessary and are not supported by the scientific evidence presented to the board,” according to a statement released by the company Friday.

In its petition filed Jan. 2, the North Valley Coalition asserted that the landfill’s operating permit “fails to protect the public from threats to water quality and evaluate the shortcomings of the site as required by state law and federal law.”

Neighbors have expressed concern that the landfill has generated pollutants that may have caused cancer, birth abnormalities, miscarriages, respiratory illnesses and other health problems in the community.

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A county report released in November found that incidences of cancer, low birth weight, death rates and birth defects in neighborhoods around the landfill were no greater than those elsewhere in the county.

However, the lack of a significant finding did not mean that the landfill was safe, health officials concluded, adding that more testing was needed.

The regional water board’s decision was the last major hurdle that Browning-Ferris had to clear before moving ahead with the expansion project. The plan had already received land-use and related approvals from the city of Los Angeles and the California Integrated Waste Management Board.


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