Waste Management proposes new Azusa home to house, transfer Valley's trash
Waste Management has begun the process of pitching a new trash and recycling facility in the city that it claims will be the "best in the country."
Using the closure of the Puente Hills Landfill to point to the need for such facilities, Waste Management officials said now is the time to upgrade the company's current facility in Azusa to handle more waste and recycling.
At the same time, Azusa stands to make about $1.5 million a year once the facility is built and runs at full capacity.
A draft environmental impact report was recently submitted to the city and the review period began last week at a planning commission study session.
"The San Gabriel Valley needs a state of the art facility to manage its solid waste in the most environmentally superior manner," said Mike Hammer, a project manager for Waste Management. "In addition to the environmental features to the facility, it will recover up to 1,300 tons per day of material that can be recycled or reused."
The facility, on the northeast corner of Gladstone Street and Irwindale Avenue, would be 125,000 square feet and would look like an office building to the casual observer.
Initially, it is scheduled to handle 500 tons of recyclable objects per day, 1,500 tons of garbage, and 300 tons of green - biodegradable - waste.
At its peak, the facility is designed for 800 tons of recyclable objects per day, 2,500 tons of garbage, and 500 tons of green waste according to city staff reports.
The facility would operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The trash would be handled indoors with a negative air pressure system that aims to keep odors from escaping. Eventually, air would be released through the roof with odor neutralizing agents, Hammer said.
"By the time the air goes out of the facility, it won't bother anybody," he said.
Azusa's development agreement with Waste Management guarantees a payment of $1.60 per ton to the city for all waste delivered to the facility and then transferred during the first three years the facility is operational, according to the proposed agreement.
At full capacity, that translates into $1.5 million a year for the city, according to the proposed agreement. The deal is slightly modified following the first three years.
Azusa would also give a 15 percent discount to Waste Management on its utility bill, according to the proposed agreement.
The nature of a transfer facility not only implies trash coming in, but moving out. That means truck traffic, and "tons" of it.
The environmental impact report studying the plan found two significant, unavoidable impacts.
The first was traffic at four intersections: Irwindale Avenue and Gladstone Street, Irwindale Avenue and Arrow Highway, Irwindale Avenue and the 210 Freeway on/off ramps, and impacts to the Caltrans Facility.
Mitigation is available for those intersections, but the streets fall under Irwindale or Caltrans, officials said.
Irwindale planners expressed some concerns at the meeting regarding traffic and air quality, but said they are still reviewing reports on the plan before making formal comments.
In addition, short- and long-term air quality impacts in the form of NOx emissions due to trucks was unavoidable, according to the report.
The report estimates 700 to 800 trips - arriving counts as one trip and leaving as one - a day to and from the facility, Hammer said. Estimates are based on passenger vehicles, so semi-trucks can be counted as two cars, Hammer said.
One local business owner said the city is trading pollution for a paycheck.
"You have got this large commercial entity that is going to impact a lot of residents for the city to get $1.5 million a year," Gale Banks said. "That is the decision the city is going to have to make."
Banks, the president and CEO of Gale Banks Engineering, owns several business directly across from the proposed plan on Gladstone Street.
The amount of emissions created, the potential leakage from trash trucks, and the obstruction of his view of the mountains due to the raised height of the building, all create an impact beyond the project's benefit, he said.
"It is almost hard to conceive of the sound emissions, the pollution put out by the engines in these vehicles, the pollution put out by the degradation of the tires, and most importantly, the leaking or spilling of liquid and trash," Banks said. "It will blot out the mountains. There is too much impact, in my opinion, on the surrounding neighborhoods."
Azusa Assistant Community Development Director Conal McNamara said having air quality impacts is commonplace for any industrial project proposed in Los Angeles County, but the purpose of the report is to take the appropriate measures to lessen the impact as much as possible.
"The project merits consideration and approval and benefits will outweigh the impacts," he said. "We have a situation where the future of trash hauling is really going to change in 2013 when the Puente Hills Landfill closes. The need to do these facilities are going to be more and more critical as time goes on."
McNamara said the city plans to address air quality issues at the next public hearing for the project on April 20. Another public hearing is scheduled for May 20, after the 45 day comment period for the environmental impact report, which ends May 9.
Hammer didn't try to temper expectations at a Planning Commission Wednesday when he said the proposed facility would be the "best facility in the country" and there is "nothing like it on the west coast."
"It is a state of the art facility," he said. "It is going to make a lot of improvements to the corner."
Waste Management is inviting residents to view the plan at an open house on April 23 at the Azusa Land Reclamation Landfill Facility.