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State ruling on permit a blow to opponents of Rainbow waste facility in Huntington Beach

A state waste management agency overturned a hearing officer's ruling that the Orange County Health Care Agency should reopen its review of Rainbow Environmental Services' operating permit, dealing a blow to critics of the company's waste facility in Huntington Beach.

Scott Smithline, director of the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, said in a report Sept. 9 that the county agency did not abuse its discretion by not responding in a timely manner to complaints by the Ocean View School District about Rainbow's operations.

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District officials and residents near Rainbow's waste management and recycling facility at 17121 Nichols Lane have long complained about dust, noise and odors emanating from the site, which is across the street from Oak View Elementary School.

Ocean View School District board President Gina Clayton-Tarvin said Tuesday that she was not surprised by the state ruling and continued to claim that the Health Care Agency has neglected the district's concerns.

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"[The Health Care Agency] does not call back and does not follow up on complaints in a timely fashion, if at all," she said. "They have been very neglectful of the residents they are entrusted to care for."

During a closed session during a school district board meeting Tuesday night, members voted unanimously to file a lawsuit against the Health Care Agency and the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, Clayton-Tarvin said.

The lawsuit will seek to have the state agency's actions reversed, she said.

Nicole Walsh, an attorney for Orange County, declined to comment.

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County Supervisor Michelle Steel, whose district includes Huntington Beach, said in a statement that the Health Care Agency will continue to monitor complaints about Rainbow's operations.

The agency is the local enforcement body on behalf of the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery and oversees the operation permits of waste facilities in Orange County.

Smithline said the county was not obligated to contact the school district after receiving a letter of concern about Rainbow's operations during the time the company's permit was being reviewed. He said the letter was considered to be a comment and did not warrant a response. However, the Health Care Agency was obligated to review the comments, Smithline said.

The Health Care Agency renewed the company's five-year permit in October, and the school district appealed in November.

On Feb. 4, hearing officer Craig Alexander ordered the agency to reopen its review of the permit and to investigate whether the facility was responsible for nuisances affecting the neighborhood.

He wrote in a 40-page ruling that although the agency had correctly conducted inspections of the Rainbow facility, it failed to contact those who had complained about it.

Clayton-Tarvin said the Ocean View board of trustees will discuss whether to take legal action against the state waste agency.

Edmond Connor, an attorney for the district, said he would want a third party to review the permit application process.

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