Schools ask waste facility to cover site

Cement crushing at a Huntington Beach waste management facility has ceased after the Ocean View School District heard complaints from residents and parents during a recent school board meeting.

But the district and its attorney aren't satisfied with just the halting of the crushing operation, which they say causes a fine dust to fill the surrounding area. They're in talks with Rainbow Environmental Services to have the local company cover its piles of waste and grinded material at its site on Nichols Lane.

"In 2009, they got a permit to expand and they were promising to cover these operations," attorney Edmond Connor said. "I don't believe that any strict conditions were placed on them. So if they were planning on covering them before, why are they doing it just now? Whatever garbage they have right now is creating a public nuisance."

Connor said residents in the Oak View community have long complained about the odors coming from the site and the seagulls that flock there. But in the past two years, the dust from 30- to 40-foot piles of crushed concrete has been blowing into the community and the neighboring schools.

Oak View Elementary School and Oak View Preschool back up to Nichols Lane across from the facility.

"It's covering every square inch of the school grounds: the playground, the lunch tables, the cars of the teachers," the attorney said. "It's also getting into the lungs of the students and staff. And apparently that's not a concern to Rainbow."

Sue Gordon, Rainbow's vice president of public affairs, said the piles don't need to be covered unless they went over a threshold set by Orange County Public Health Services in September 2009. She said the transfer building would need to be enclosed if the daily waste averaged 2,800 tons for three consecutive months. She added that the site has been averaging 1,700 tons of material.

Connor said threshold or no threshold, the company should cover its waste and as soon as possible.

"Why don't they cover it now? It's a complete public nuisance," he said. "Another problem that occurs is it allows the seagulls to come over and feed on the stuff. And then they go over and sit of the roof of the school and drop feces all over it."

The attorney said Rainbow representatives told him that a falconer would be brought in to address the bird issues, but he said all of this could be avoid if the company just covered the waste.

Gordon said the company has been bending over backward to meet the requests of residents and the school district. Not only has it stopped its concrete crushing operations, but it has started to water down the piles of material to reduce the dust and to use a sweeper with a vacuum when organizing the piles, she said.

She added that the company is still looking into funding that could pay for covering the piles.

"We're trying to do anything we can to try to make it better for the school, and we're going to continue to do that," Gordon said.

Connor said it's a start for Rainbow, but there are other issues that need to be addressed, including the expansion into the historic Wintersburg site across from the main facility.

He's concerned that the company might use the area as a dump site or an area where Rainbow can store vehicles. Either way, he sees almost any move as a detriment to the nearby school and neighborhood.

Connor said Oak View Elementary has been in the area since 1967, 14 years before the waste management facility got its permit in 1981. He added that Rainbow needs to be a good neighbor and listen to the community.

The Planning Commission recently approved the rezoning of part of the 3-acre site for industrial use but Rainbow has not announced plans. The move by planners will be considered during the Nov. 4 City Council meeting.

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