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Trash Plan Angers Residents

Posted: February 22, 2008 12:48 a.m.
Updated: April 24, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
The thought of hundreds of trash trucks driving through their neighborhoods has prompted some Newhall residents to ask city officials why they are planning to build a large recycling plant near their homes.

Twenty-one year Newhall resident Joe Thompson helped create the Stop the Dump Committee to fight plans for a materials recovery facility along Sierra Highway, between Placerita Canyon Road and Golden Valley Road in Newhall.

As part of Burrtec Waste Industries Inc.'s franchise with the city, the commercial waste hauler is required to construct a materials recovery facility - or MRF - to recycle 1,000 tons of commercial and residential waste each day. State regulations require the city to divert 50 percent of its waste, but the latest diversion rate - preliminary numbers from 2005 - show the rate at 45 percent.

The 170,000-square-foot recycling center between Sierra Highway and Highway 14 will initially process an average of 1,000 tons of trash per day and could peak to 1,500 tons. The MRF, located on a 72-acre piece of property, will potentially be able to process 3,000 tons per day to meet future demands. The center will likely operate six days a week between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

A consultant for Burrtec has begun to draw up the environmental impact report for the recycling center and Burrtec Development Director Charles Tobin said that process could take six to 12 months. Once the plans are approved, construction could take two years.

"Just the thought that they would put it next to a residential area is incredible," Thompson said. "This is unacceptable. We're going to do what we need to do to stop this."

The committee is planning a community meeting at the Moose Lodge in Canyon Country at 7 p.m. on Monday to "strategize on how to communicate with community leaders," he said.

Travis Lange, the city's environmental services manager, stressed that the waste will be processed inside an enclosed building. "This is not a landfill," he said. "We're not dumping stuff into the ground."

The city held a community meeting last week to discuss the plans with surrounding residents. The city notified residents within 1,500 feet of the site, exceeding their requirement to notify those within 1,000 feet. Thompson said, however, that the recycling center will affect residents in all the neighborhoods within a few miles of the site and criticized the city for not informing more residents.

"That may be legal, but it isn't ethical," he said. "Everybody is going to be affected by this."

"It's difficult to say who's affected at this point," said Darin Seegmiller, a city planner and the project manager.

Jeff Hogan, senior planner with the city, said that the city is not actually required to hold the community meeting, or "scoping meeting," but the city held the meeting anyway because "we wanted to get the public involved right away."

Tobin said there will likely be a series of community meetings that will address the community's concerns.

"Obviously there's going to be a need to do community outreach," he said.

Burrtec originally eyed two other sites for the recycling center, including the Gate-King development east of the new site. Due to pending litigation with environmental groups, Burrtec began to look elsewhere.

When asked why the MRF needs to be built in this particular location, as opposed to a more rural area outside of the city limits, Tobin said that the city had conducted a search and came up with the list of options that included the property along Sierra Highway.

"If anyone has an idea for an alternative site within the city, we'd all be interested in that," Tobin said.

In response to the same question, Lange said, "This is the site that's being proposed (by Burrtec)."

He added that the search for a site was a joint effort on the part of Burrtec and the city. The city came up with a list of options and "Burrtec did their own analysis as well," he said.

Tobin said the site had to be within the city limits, though Lange said the franchise agreement does not include any location restrictions. Lange said the MRF could potentially be built in an unincorporated area of the Santa Clarita Valley.

He said that the public meetings and the environmental impact report process will determine "whether or not the site works."

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