Kern County officials say the city of Los Angeles is liable for up to $895,000 in fines for the illegal dumping of more than 100 tons of yard trimmings in violation of state quarantines intended to prevent the spread of agricultural pests.
Kern County Agricultural Commissioner Ruben Arroyo said an investigation he led found that trucks bearing the city seal of Los Angeles transported at least 279 loads of “green waste” — yard trimmings mixed with trash — to a vacant lot near the community of Lebec over a six-month period ending in January.
Jimmy Tokeshi, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Department of Public Works, said the city sanitation bureau disputes the charges on the grounds that the waste was “transported in full compliance with all applicable state laws.” Tokeshi said the city does not deny that the dumping occurred, only that it violated the quarantines.
At the time, quarantines were in effect for light brown apple moths, Oriental fruit flies and Asian citrus psyllids.
“Kern County doesn’t have those pests, and they could wipe out our $7-billion agricultural industry,” Arroyo said.
The dispute, which was first reported in the Mountain Enterprise newspaper of Frazier Park, will ultimately be resolved in administrative civil penalty hearings to be held in Kern County over the next few months.
The case began last December after the Kern County Environmental Health department received a complaint of illegal dumping by city of Los Angeles trucks in a vacant lot near Lebec in the Tehachapi Mountains. An investigation determined the trucks were violating three state quarantines.
The truck drivers told Kern County officials that they were delivering “mulch” from the northeastern San Fernando Valley’s Lopez Canyon green waste recycling center to the Lebec site, the officials said. From there, the material was hauled to a waste recycling facility in Taft, roughly 30 miles away.
Los Angeles, which generates about 1,800 tons of yard trimmings each day, offers free deliveries to farmers and others seeking large quantities for agricultural and landscaping purposes.