Waste removal going 'perfectly'

Officials have taken out about 9,200 tons of hazardous waste and toxic sludge from the city's defunct landfill as the interim removal gains momentum.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control began removing waste from the Ascon Landfill Site on Aug. 4 as an intermediary measure before the site's final cleanup. The project, which is expected to remove about 70,000 cubic yards of waste will help determine the extent of the final clean up.

The 38-acre landfill at 21641 Magnolia St. was used to store waste and construction debris from 1938 to 1984.

Officials have begun taking out waste from two 12- to 17-foot-deep pits, referred to as lagoons, in the interior southwest section of the site.

There are five lagoons on the site, but officials are only digging into lagoons 1 and 2. The removal will go down to about 15 feet to uncover tarry oil production materials and other hidden debris that has accumulated over the years.

So far, project manager Safouh Sayed said the removal is going "perfectly," with about 380 trucks full of waste, or nearly 10 % of what needs to be removed and taken to the Buttonwillow Landfill in Kern County.

The department has been using about 40 trucks a day, sometimes less, as they amp up work and are expected to go up to the maximum allowance of 70 trucks a day in October, he said.

Work was originally slated to begin July 5, but the date was pushed back to deal with issues that arose.

The initial set back was to allow the crew to get their bearings and deal with unexpected issues like the ground being more liquid than initially expected, said Sandra Friedman, spokeswoman for the department of Toxic Substances Control.

The two lagoons are expected to be completed by early February, but it all dependant upon the weather. Heavy rain could shut down work for several days, Sayed said.

The department has received about nine calls to its hotline, mostly informational, but a few pertaining to concerns about dust and odor, Sayed said.

Officials are using dust suppressants, inspecting and decontaminating trucks, and air quality technicians are reviewing the air quality with hand-held monitors and stations around the perimeter of the site, officials said.

Two residents had concerns about dust getting on their cars from the site and whether or not they needed to keep their windows closed. Residents are in no danger at all, Sayed said.

Any dust, along with any odors, aren't harmful to residents, officials said.

"Just because something smells doesn't mean it's necessarily dangerous," Friedman said. "It's just annoying."

Residents are still encouraged to call the hotline with any concerns, Friedman said. Residents should call (714) 388-1833 to report a concern.

The preliminary excavation of lagoons 1 and 2 will help the department finalize its environmental impact report for the final removal measure.

Officials are proposing removing the majority of the waste from the landfill and then capping off the site to prevent rain water from getting in and air from escaping.

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