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TRUCKING OUTFIT'S LICENSE YANKED FIRM ILLEGALLY STORED WASTE.

Byline: CHARLES F. BOSTWICK Staff Writer

LANCASTER -- City officials ordered the shutdown of a waste-hauling business that for nearly two years has been the target of complaints from neighbors who say they have been sickened by fumes and dust.

In a 5-0 vote Tuesday night, the City Council voted to affirm the revocation of Smith & Thompson Pumping Co.'s business license on the grounds that the firm stored waste in its trucking yard in violation of the area's light-industrial zoning rules.

``If it's waste, it can't go there. By their own testimony, ... sometimes

it gets stored there,'' Vice Mayor Ed Sileo said at the conclusion of Tuesday night's public hearing.

Thousands of tons of material stored at Smith & Thompson's yard on Avenue L-9 were hauled away this spring under Los Angeles County health officials' orders.

Neighboring residents and business owners since 2005 have filed court actions against Smith & Thompson, complaining of nausea, burning eyes, diarrhea and other ailments, court papers show.

Smith & Thompson employee Sherwin Smith, who was also part-owner of a firm named S&S Environmental that operated on the site, is facing criminal charges from a state investigation that concluded that toxic industrial waste was illegally stored on the property and that documents were falsified about what was done with it.

Arrested last September along with a truck driver, Smith has pleaded not guilty to 36 felony charges of grand theft, illegally storing and disposing of hazardous waste, and forgery.

The neighbors' attorney, Anthony Patchett, said he found the conditions appalling when he first visited the location in February 2005. He said tests indicated the neighbors were subjected to hydrogen sulfide gas and E. coli bacteria.

``I'm sorry the City Council has taken so long to recognize a very drastic situation that's been going on,'' Patchett said

Smith & Thompson attorney Michael Kelly said the firm has been operating legally within the rules of its permits, and he said the piles of material about which neighbors complained were tested repeatedly and found not to be harmful.

Smith & Thompson is no longer storing waste in its yard, except on occasions when trucks hauling waste must be parked there overnight because waste-disposal facilities are not open, Kelly said.

``We are not a waste-disposal facility. Disposal means the final resting place,'' Kelly said. ``We transport it and that's all. We do not store anything anymore.''

Kelly said the material about which neighbors complained was placed there not by Smith & Thompson but by S&S Environmental, which records show had leased part of Smith & Thompson's property and which was a partnership owned by Smith & Thompson's former owner and by Sherwin Smith, a Smith & Thompson employee who is also the stepson of the present owner.

Smith & Thompson spent tens of thousands of dollars to haul away the waste that Kelly said included pumice used in stone-washing blue jeans and shampoo material.

City officials said Smith & Thompson had been granted a business license in 2002 to operate a transportation facility. In March, city staffers revoked the license after concluding the business met the definition of either a waste-disposal facility or a hazardous-waste disposal facility.

The city's light-industrial zone allows trucking companies, but not waste disposal, whether of hazardous or nonhazardous material, Community Development Director Brian Ludicke said.

The company appealed the revocation to the City Council. The council in its vote Tuesday night upheld the revocation and told city staffers to stop any business operations on the property that violate the municipal code.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 12, 2006
Words:578
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