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DUMP GOOD NEIGHBOR ONLY WHEN PRESSED.

Byline: EXIQUIO RUIZ Local View

CYNTHIA Despres is tired of smelling the trash. Living about a mile from the Bradley landfill in Sun Valley, she fears the value of her home has declined with each new ton piling up.

As a teacher at Fernangeles Elementary School -- located a mere 1,800 feet from the landfill -- Ricardo Loredo is disturbed that more than 10 percent of the Fernangeles student body suffers from asthma. A cabinet for classroom materials has filled with inhalers instead.

The pastor of my church, Father Richard Zanotti at Holy Rosary, saw my fellow parishioners, many struggling to advance into the middle class, bear the brunt of the landfill's pollution. Some 81 percent of those living within three miles of the landfill are minority and more than 25 percent live below the poverty level.

Josh Stehlik, a lawyer at Neighborhood Legal Services in Pacoima, thinks Sun Valley's situation is just plain unjust. The city of Los Angeles has adopted a policy of environmental justice, stating that no racial or economic group should bear a disproportionate burden of the city's environmental hazards. Apparently, this policy has not been applied to Sun Valley.

A residential community of 46,000 people and 10 elementary and secondary schools, Sun Valley is also home to 33 landfills, waste-transfer stations and solid waste vehicle yards; 43 auto-body shops; 33 auto dismantlers; 20 concrete and building materials facilities; and eight recycling centers. The cumulative impact of the pollution from these businesses on the residents of Sun Valley is immense.

One LA, the countywide community organizing initiative, has worked for three years to oppose Waste Management's proposed 43-foot landfill height expansion and the addition of a 7,000-tons-per-day trash Transfer Station and Materials Recycling Facility (TS/MRF). We have conducted research, held community forums, organized public actions involving thousands of concerned residents, brought Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to see the dump firsthand, and pressured City Councilman Tony Cardenas and other City Council members to block the height expansion and TS/MRF.

Earlier this month, Waste Management withdrew its request for a 43-foot height expansion. Some praised this as ``good corporate citizenship.'' We, too, laud the decision, but we think business and politics are a bit more complex.

Over the past three years, we have learned that when politicians and corporations do the right thing, it is almost always because organized people or organized money have forced them to. If we disappear, so, too, will Waste Management's newfound commitment to good corporate citizenship.

Waste Management has yet to present its environmental analysis of the proposed TS/MRF, including what technology it will use and how it will affect my community's standard of living.

We are glad it has responded to our concerns, but we are not so foolish as to start relying on blind trust in Waste Management. We prefer facts and accountability.

And until we get them, we will continue to oppose the proposed trash transfer station and MRF.
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Title Annotation:Editorial
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Dec 21, 2006
Words:492
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