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Sludge removal halted

Rains cause a delay in Ascon Landfill's cleanup, but there is no danger of leaking, officials say.

December 22, 2010|By Britney Barnes, britney.barnes@latimes.com

Officials monitored rainfall levels at the Ascon Landfill Site this week but said there was no chance that rainwater from the site could overflow into the streets and neighborhoods.

"There is no danger of any water leaking out of the site," said Unit Chief Greg Holmes, who is overseeing the cleanup at 21641 Magnolia St.

Rainwater threatened to escape the 38-acre landfill in 2005. The berms that surround the lagoons were bolstered that year as part of an emergency repair when rainwater threatened to spill into the streets, according to the Independent's archives.

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Residents in the area remember that scare, but there is no chance of a repeat incident, said Sandra Friedman, spokeswoman for the state Department of Toxic Substances Control.

The department is overseeing the removal.

The landfill site was used to store waste and construction debris from 1938 to 1984. The department in August began an intermediary removal measure to determine the extent of the cleanup for the site's final removal measure.

Officials were removing oily sludge from two, 12- to 17-foot-deep pits, Lagoons 1 and 2, in the interior southwest section of the site to determine what was in them. Holmes said the waste has been a uniform oily sludge.

The site has been shut down all week, and officials will decide next week whether to start work again.

It takes a couple days after the rain subsides to begin removal again, Holmes said.

"They can't work on it very well when it's too muddy," he said.

During the rain, crews were pumping the water from Lagoons 1 and 2 into Lagoon 4, which has a larger capacity, Holmes said.

The pumping was to keep the water out of the lagoons to make it easier to work, he said.

Officials also began excavating Lagoon 3 last week. The lagoon was not slated to be part of the interim measure, but officials thought Lagoon 2, which has been emptied to 12 feet in depth, could be putting pressure on the berm between it and Lagoon 3, Holmes said.

The pressure could make it unstable, he added.

To remove that pressure, officials plan to remove waste down to 12 feet in Lagoon 3. Lagoon 1 has also been excavated to that depth.

Despite the setback from the rain, officials said they are on track to complete the interim removal by the February deadline.

Since the measure began, 63,953 tons of waste have been carted off in 2,714 trucks to the Buttonwillow Landfill near Bakersfield.

The site was running about 50 trucks a day before the rain began.

Holmes said they will be able to reach their goal of learning enough about the waste to map out a final cleanup measure.

More Information

Questions or concerns about the Ascon Landfill Site? Call (714) 388-1833

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