Is the City of Los Angeles dumping sludge in Lebec?
For the full story click here to see Local Mystery: Is Sludge Being Dumped in Lebec? When Politics, Jobs and the Law Collide
FRAZIER PARK, CA (Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014 at 2:50 p.m.)—Bakersfield KNZR radio host Jaz McKay had a lark this afternoon interviewing mountain residents about the Lebec site where it was feared sewage “biosolids” were possibly being dumped. Poop jokes flowed liberally. Lebec resident Lawrence Skiba called to say that The Mountain Enterprise had today published a detailed investigative report on the facility, its operators and the origin of the material.
Managing editor for The Mountain Enterprise Patric Hedlund discussed the details of the report, including the fact that sludge had been big business in Kern County for over 25 years. An 8-year slow motion legal brawl is being waged with Los Angeles after Kern County voters in 2006 declared in the Measure E initiative that they no longer want L.A.’s sludge to be dumped in their backyards. But lawsuits and appeals have been ongoing, with sludge still being dumped north of Bakersfield. The material in Lebec, however, is not sludge, according to the current investigation by The Mountain Enterprise.
District 4 Supervisor David Couch spoke about his interest in the subject of sludge and his assurance that the county is on the job to confirm public health is being protected.
FRAZIER PARK, CA (Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014 at 2:15 p.m.)–The Mountain Enterprise began investigating this story in mid-December when resident Larry Skiba came to the newspaper office asking what we knew about the dumping of sludge in Lebec. We asked Supervisor David Couch if he would be aware of such dumping if it was taking place. We told him where to find the site along Frazier Mountain Park Road. Our reporters followed two of the trucks to their destination outside of Bakersfield and our editor interviewed the composting plant manager there.
Our story includes interviews with the transport company owner and with a representative of the City of Los Angeles.
See the full story in the January 10 edition of The Mountain Enterprise on newsstands today.
UPDATE, LEBEC CA (January 3, 2014 at 5:31 p.m.)—Today Kern County District 4 Supervisor David Couch released a statement based on confidential inquiries made by The Mountain Enterprise to his office Monday, Dec. 23 following questions from concerned Mountain Community residents on December 18.
In the meantime, this newspaper has been busy securing additional information. At the same time that Supervisor Couch’s staff was issuing this press release, The Mountain Enterprise was meeting with the small business owner who is running the operation in question. He said during that interview that he was assured by Kern County staff earlier this afternoon that no press release would be issued by the county about what he was told is “an ongoing investigation.” But the press release was circulated by Couch’s staff shortly after the business owner left the county’s administrative building.
We will continue to report closely about this issue, with an eye to the many facets developing to this story. See our first breaking news story below, and get the in-depth story in the next issue of The Mountain Enterprise, on Thursday morning.
Here is the press release from Couch’s staff: Dumping of Material in Kern County by City of Los Angeles Sanitation Department
The County of Kern is currently investigating possible land-use violations in the Frazier Park area. Public Health personnel have observed trucks, bearing the City of Los Angeles seal, depositing what appears to be a composted material at a business just north of Lebec, CA. Supervisor David Couch has also personally witnessed the activity. This last week, staff observed that the material is being delivered and it appears that it is being staged at the business site for an unknown period of time then trucked elsewhere later.
County staff is in contact with various involved parties, including the property owner and a trucking firm, among others, to determine the source, composition, and the destination of the material, which is unknown at this time.
This Tuesday, Supervisor Couch will ask County Code Compliance, Planning Department, and Public Health Department staff to provide a full report to the Board of Supervisors later this month on their findings and any recommended enforcement actions which should be considered if land-use or other violations are confirmed.
Supervisor Couch is very concerned that the City of Los Angeles apparently did not review regulations and requirements with local officials prior to commencing this activity. Couch stated, “In light of ongoing litigation with the City of Los Angeles regarding Measure E, a more open and cooperative approach would be far better.” Instead the activity was reported to Mr. Couch’s staff by concerned Mountain Communities citizens. Mr. Couch added: “This questionable activity leads to more questions. What is this material? Why is it being handled so secretly? How long has this been occurring? I don’t have answers to these questions yet, but I intend to find out.”
LEBEC, CA (January 3, 2014 at 1:45 p.m.)—Since December 18 The Mountain Enterprise and Mountain Community residents have been monitoring gold-painted trucks bearing the logo of the Los Angeles Department of Sanitation coming just across the county line and dumping solid waste substances in Lebec. Brown hills of the material have been hidden behind the berms of a former gravel and cement operation for about 6 months. The substance is deposited, then picked up by another set of trucks and transferred to a processing plant 15 miles west of Arvin. Meanwhile more is trucked in, dumped, and the cycle continues—an estimated 12 truck-loads daily. Residents say it varies, but that some loads have “a horrendous odor.”
Kern County’s Department of Environmental Health began investigating after The Mountain Enterprise inquired about the dumping activity on Monday, Dec. 23.
The owner of the Lebec land was interviewed by the county on Tuesday, Dec. 30, he told The Mountain Enterprise. The Orange County owner of the transport business is being interviewed today in Bakersfield by Kern County officials at about 3 p.m.. He tells The Mountain Enterprise that the brown material is green waste, and the reason it is steaming when it is unloaded is because of the temperature differential between Los Angeles and Lebec.
District 4 Supervisor David Couch’s office staff said today that Couch plans to issue a press release about the investigation.
Kern County government and residents have been touchy about being the unwilling recipients of Los Angeles sludge and other waste products since a long legal brawl was played out in slow motion from 2006 through 2013. Litigation is ongoing.
See the upcoming issue of The Mountain Enterprise for a detailed report.
This is part of the December 27, 2013 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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