An estimated 18-month cleanup at the long-defunct Ascon Landfill will begin next year after winning approval from the Huntington Beach Planning Commission on Tuesday.
The 38-acre property at the southwest corner of Hamilton Avenue and Magnolia Street was a waste disposal facility from about 1938 to 1984, with oversight primarily from the state Department of Toxic Substances Control.
On a 6-0 Planning Commission vote, Tamara Zeier of Project Navigator received coastal development and conditional use permits to begin excavating a portion — up to 32,250 cubic yards — of contaminated materials at the site.
The remaining waste will be capped with drought-tolerant vegetation. Two stormwater detention basins also will be added.
Work is expected to begin in 2019 and continue through 2020 between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily, according to a city staff report.
The area will be enclosed with a 6- or 7-foot fence. No-parking signs will be placed along Hamilton and Magnolia throughout the excavation.
While Commissioner Michael Grant said he is happy the project is moving forward, Commissioner Connie Mandic asked how the Department of Toxic Substances Control determined to remove only a portion of the waste at the site.
Department project manager Scarlett Zhai told commissioners that if everything were removed, it would cause a “heavy burden” on traffic in the area as well as a lot of dust and noise for nearby residents. The site is bordered by homes, Edison Park and Edison High School.
Removing all waste would result in 62,500 truck trips vs. 24,700 trips for partial removal, Zhai said.
When the department was deciding how to move forward with a cleanup plan, the most important consideration was protecting human health and the environment, Zhai said.
A public meeting tentatively scheduled for December will notify residents of the upcoming excavation, according to Zhai.
Mandic tried pushing for more security after Zeier said inspectors would periodically drop by the area but Commissioner Dan Kalmick suggested that if the concern was about the homeless, police can patrol the area just like in other parts of the neighborhood.
Commissioner John Scandura recused himself from the matter because he is employed by the Department of Toxic Substances Control.
Efforts to improve the area began after the state demanded cleanup of the site’s five waste-filled lagoons and six oil wells in 2003.
Much of the waste came from oil drilling until 1971, when the landfill became a depository for construction debris, according to the Ascon website.
In 2017, commissioners granted property owner Cannery Hamilton Properties a development permit for abandonment of two oil wells beneath one of the five lagoons.
There are no immediate plans for development at the site after the proposed cleanup, according to project documents. Any proposals would be subject to approval from state regulators and Huntington Beach.