SUNSHINE MERGER BACKED SUPERVISORS VOTE TO CREATE GRANADA HILLS MEGADUMP.
The San Fernando Valley is on track to become home to one of the nation's largest garbage dumps after Los Angeles County supervisors voted Tuesday to merge two Sunshine Canyon Landfill sites into a 1,528-acre megadump.
The board's 3-2 vote allows Browning-Ferris Industries to run its side-by-side dumps -- one in the unincorporated county, the other in Granada Hills -- as a single operation until 2036. Supervisors Michael D. Antonovich and Zev Yaroslavsky, who both represent the Valley, cast the dissenting votes.
Under the controversial deal, the county will receive $65 million in fees to pay for environmental and recycling programs and to address traffic concerns. More stringent environmental, monitoring and reporting conditions also will be imposed.
But the plan -- which now heads to the City Council for approval -- drew outraged protests from longtime critics, who decried the lack of a cap on capacity and the length of the operating contract.
``As far as I'm concerned, it's one more time they've shafted the community,'' said Wayde Hunter, president of the North Valley Coalition, which has opposed the deal and advocates closing the landfill much earlier.
``It's pretty typical of the Board of Supervisors. They have no compassion for anybody.''
Jan Chatten-Brown, an attorney who represents the North Valley Coalition, the Teamsters Union and state and national environmental groups, noted that BFI could dump as much as 147 million tons of trash at the site -- far more than the 90 million tons approved in the early 1990s -- unless a cap is imposed.
``That is far in excess of what was represented to the community when this was previously approved,'' Chatten-Brown said.
Greg Loughnane, BFI's district manager, said the 147-million-ton figure is merely an estimate and that the landfill has always had approval to reach a certain elevation, not a maximum tonnage.
BFI had argued that merging the sites would help it run the landfill more efficiently with a single set of equipment and governing rules and a single daily disposal area.
``We are pleased that they saw things the way we did in creating a positive -- not only in terms of a more efficient landfill, but a positive for the community in terms of the benefits described, including $60 million for the community and environmental programs,'' Loughnane said.
Chatten-Brown did praise some of the provisions imposed -- including more stringent environmental conditions and alternative fuel vehicles -- as ``major, major victories that frankly would never have happened if there hadn't been broad coalition support.''
Although city and county officials have long anticipated that the two landfills would be merged, the county Planning Commission in November rejected the plan. Members cited concerns about traffic from trash trucks, the shortage of recycling facilities and the lack of a guaranteed closure date.
BFI appealed to the supervisors.
At the time, Granada Hills activists said the plan would eliminate some of the strict requirements imposed by the city, and they wanted a guarantee that the landfill would close in 2016 and that a long-term insurance plan be put in place in case the landfill leaks in the future.
In a letter read to the supervisors, U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, noted that the landfill is located near the California Aqueduct, which supplies most of the water in Southern California, and two major earthquake faults.
``The possibility of a landfill failure is very real and will have disastrous public health consequences,'' Sherman wrote. ``In the San Fernando Valley, cleanup costs could easily exceed $100 million.''
Sherman said insurance should be maintained on the landfill beyond 30 years and he's requested the U.S. Government Accountability Office to determine the risk taxpayers could face if a large earthquake were to rupture the landfill's liners, polluting Southern California's water supply.
Residents near the landfill have long complained about leaky liners and blowing trash. Some believe they have contracted cancer and respiratory ailments from pollutants in the air and water.
In a letter read to the supervisors, North Valley Coalition member Mary Edwards wrote that she has fought the expansion of the landfill for decades, but has contracted bone cancer. ``I naively thought that no one would site a giant landfill next to the largest water supply in the United States,'' Edwards wrote. ``I never believed a corporation could influence those I believed were thoughtful elected officials who would never approve such a project.
``I soon found out the bottom line of the corporation and that it would be aggressively pursued at the expense of our community.''
Hunter, president of the coalition, said merging the dumps raises other safety concerns.
``The county liner is leaking,'' Hunter said. ``That bridge area was the one way to detect that leakage. Now they will cover it up with trash, so finally all of any leakage coming down will end up in the city first.''
County sources said they believed the three other supervisors voted for the plan because they have landfills in their own districts and recognize the need for more landfill space in the county and the potential expense of various other options under consideration.
But Antonovich said Valley residents have been promised in the past that the landfill will eventually close and other options will be sought to deal with the region's trash.
``They are justifiably alarmed over the high levels of cancer rates some neighborhoods have had,'' Antonovich said. ``Furthermore, they are quite frustrated over the false assurances given from time to time over the last 48 years. Having some time frame for its closure is important.''