first_img 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! LANCASTER – Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich called for a rapid cleanup of property owned by a waste-hauling firm whose former operators are accused of illegally storing industrial waste and falsifying documents. Antonovich directed county Department of Health Services officials to work with state health officials to speed up the removal from Smith & Thompson Pumping’s property of 8-foot-tall piles of waste material, now leaving at the rate of one or two truckloads a week. “We’re going to use every resource available to get this site cleaned up,” Antonovich aide Norm Hickling said Friday, standing at a neighboring steel-fabrication yard where people say they have been sickened by fumes coming off Smith & Thompson’s yard. Sherwin Smith, co-owner of sister firm S&S, and truck driver Marvin Dunbar have pleaded not guilty to criminal charges filed against them by Los Angeles County prosecutors. Smith, who is charged with 36 felony counts of grand theft, illegally storing and disposing of hazardous waste, and forgery, is out on bond. Dunbar, who is charged with one count of grand theft, is free based on a written promise to appear in court. Both men were arrested Sept. 28. A state investigation showed 331 occasions when the companies picked up waste but did not take it where they were supposed to. On 273 occasions, somebody forged signatures on documents indicating the waste had been delivered to disposal facilities, state officials said. Smith & Thompson’s attorney said the firm’s ownership has changed since the arrests and he has been talking with county officials about speeding up removal of the piles, which were placed there by S&S. Smith & Thompson wants to hire another company with bigger trucks to haul the material away more quickly than it can do itself, attorney Gary E. Moll said. “It is our intention to move that off as quickly as possible,” Moll said. Moll said in court documents that the firm transports cooking grease, carwash sludge, waste water from perfume- and shampoo-type manufacturing and septic matter, none of them considered hazardous waste under state law. The firm keeps grease and carwash sludge at its West Avenue L-9 property to allow it to dry out before it is taken to a disposal facility, Moll said in a court document. The piles of material that are being removed are described in a county health department memo as pumice, which Mall said is used in the stone-wash process for blue jeans. “It’s harmless,” Moll said. Attorney Anthony Patchett, representing neighbors who say fumes and dust coming off the property is making them ill, said he believes the pumice was mixed with septic tank waste, camouflaging the septic waste and allowing the operators to avoid paying to dispose of it at a sewage treatment plant. Neighbors said dust blown off the piles burns their eyes and makes breathing difficult. Neighbors obtained a temporary restraining order this week from Antelope Valley Superior Court Judge Frank Jackson, barring Smith & Thompson from storing more waste on its property, and ordering it to make sure the existing waste doesn’t blow away or seep into the ground. Neighbors complain that they had to take action because city and county officials were not acting quickly enough to protect them. “People get agitated because nothing happens,” said businessman Steve McIntosh, who owns a golf cart sales and repair business across the street. “It’s gone on too long.” An odor comes off Smith & Thompson’s property that smells to him “like fried puke,” McIntosh said. Neighbors on Thursday dug up two 55-gallon drums buried at the neighboring property that Smith & Thompson occupied until about 18 months ago. Patchett, the neighbors’ attorney, said he was told 20 more barrels, and possibly larger containers, were seen being buried on the property, which is now a steel fabrication yard. A Los Angeles County Fire Department hazardous-materials unit was called out Friday to examine the barrels, which a fire captain said contained a dry substance that looked like cement dust. The barrels’ contents did not give off flammable vapor and were not acid or caustic, said Capt. Henry Sanchez of Hazardous Materials Task Force 130. There is no way to know how long the drums were there, he said. “It didn’t pose any problems,” Sanchez said. The barrels were dug up by neighbors, using a friend’s small bulldozer, after environmental officials said they would not look for the drums that were said to be buried on the property. “Nobody would come do it,” said Patchett, the attorney. “They said if you find something, you give us a call. That’s what we did.” Charles F. Bostwick, (661) 267-5742 chuck.bostwick@dailynews.comlast_img

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