Romancing the garbage: taking stock and LACSD

It's been one year since I began writing articles on the environment for The Downey Patriot. Editor Eric Pierce has kindly given me carte blanche to write about whatever environmental issues cross my mind and has published almost every article verbatim. I write as a volunteer contributor, with both a sense of responsibility to my community and a constant awareness of the privilege of setting these ideas before the reading public in Downey.Likewise, it's almost six months that this column has been graced each week by the ever-creative and whimsically humorous illustrations of Gennie Prochazka - every one designed specifically for the article it accompanies. While layout requirements have limited most of these illustrations to black-and-white in the published edition, I heartily commend to you the Features section in the online version of The Downey Patriot, at, where Gennie's illustrations sparkle in brilliant colors. Similarly, three years have elapsed since, as a member of the City of Downey's original Green Task Force, I took advantage of an unforgettable opportunity to tour six area facilities owned and/or operated by the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts (LACSD), which have recently taken over the operation of our local Downey materials recovery facility (MRF), long known by the acronym, "DART." At one time DART stood for the quaintly neighborhood-friendly expression "Downey At-home Recycling Team," in keeping with its early local-area roots in residential curbside recycling. Nowadays, reflecting its more corporate affiliation with LACSD, it stands for "Downey Area Recycling and Transfer." This distinction is significant, because it ties DART to a long-standing countywide effort in waste management that ranks among the oldest and largest in the country. According to LACSD's published Fact Sheet, "The Sanitation Districts were formed in 1923 when the cities were beginning to materialize, and it was clear that managing wastewater on a regional scale would make sense... In the 1950's, it became apparent that solid waste management also needed a regional approach. At that time, the Districts were given responsibility to provide for the management of collected solid waste, including disposal and transfer operations, and ultimately, materials and energy recovery." More specifically, LACSD services about 5.3 million people in 78 cities and unincorporated area in L.A. County encompassing over 800 square miles. Its 11 wastewater treatment plants handle about 480 million gallons per day, and three active landfills deal with approximately 18,000 tons of solid waste per day, of which 3,000 tons are then recycled. Further, again according to its Fact Sheet, "the agency also operates four landfill energy recovery facilities, two recycle centers, three materials recovery/transfer facilities, and participates in the operation of two refuse-to-energy facilities." Among this group, the six LACSD facilities I visited in 2009 were the Puente Hills Landfill, the Puente Hills Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), the Puente Hills Intermodal Facility, the San Jose Creek Water Reclamation Plant (WRP), all within a stone's throw of each other near the intersection of the Pomona Freeway and the 605 in Whittier. Also on the tour were the Joint Water Pollution Control Plant (JWPCP) and the Southeast Resource Recovery Facility (SERRF), both in Long Beach. Much more recently, thanks to the kind intervention of CalMet Services, I was able to tour our DART facility in Downey. In a nutshell, L.A. County waste management, under the protective wing of LACSD, has MRFs and DART and WRPs and JWPCP and SERRF, trains, pumps, and protozoa, all there to help the enormous population of our huge megalopolis, including Downey, romance the garbage. More details to come in the next column.

********** Published: July 12, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 13