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Thursday, Jan 30 2014 11:00 PM

Playing dumb seems to be working for LA

By The Bakersfield Californian

The Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation has a multi-million dollar budget, is overseen by a bunch of high-paid bureaucrats and has an army of legal advisors.

So excuse us for not believing the bureau's "Alfred E. Neuman" act. You remember Alfred, Mad magazine's fictitious, clueless cover boy.

Los Angeles would like us to believe they were clueless when they got caught illegally dumping Southern California waste without a permit near Lebec. What, me worry about a permit? We have to give a lot of credit to 4th District Kern County Supervisor David Couch, who staked out the remote, hidden site to figure out who was doing the dumping and what was being dumped.

Representatives of the Los Angeles Department of Sanitation eventually confessed, explaining that, golly gee, we were just dumping harmless, "clean green waste" from the city of Los Angeles.

Keep in mind that in 2008, Los Angeles began a program encouraging its residents to also put food scraps and food-soiled paper into their green yard trimming bins. So it's no wonder that super-sleuth Couch found that the tall, decomposing piles of waste near Frazier Mountain Park Road were a bit steamy.

From that dumping spot, the waste was picked up by local trucks and hauled to a nearby "end-user." Bureau officials refused to identify the end-user. But super-sleuth Couch followed one of the trucks to Synagro, a Taft company that mixes organic waste and treated human and industrial waste, or sludge, to produce fertilizer.

Kern County officials are trying to determine exactly what is in the waste and how long it was being stockpiled. But they concluded Los Angeles needed a permit to dump it in Lebec. Couch's findings prompted Los Angeles to stop the dumping, and a bureau spokeswoman claimed her agency did not know the site was not permitted.

A private business would not dare offer such a lame excuse. The Los Angeles Department of Sanitation, which manages a huge refuse collection and disposal operation, fails to grasp laws that deal with refuse disposal? Hard to believe.

This episode fits right in with Los Angeles' years-long pattern of utter disregard for Kern County and its residents. It's as if L.A.'s leaders see their northern neighbor as a resource-rich colony they may exploit as it suits them. In fact, the relationship is more like a lowlife neighbor (L.A.) who pitches dog poop over the backyard fence, leaving someone else (Kern County) to deal with it.

Ten years ago, Kern County voters passed Measure E, which banned Southern California sanitation districts from pitching about 1,500 truckloads a month of their poop -- sludge, to put it more politely -- over the Tehachapi Mountains, where it is smeared on farmland south of Bakersfield. But enforcement of the ban is tied up in the courts. And Bakersfield Assemblyman Rudy Salas' bill last year to give Kern County the power to stop the flow was derailed. The Lebec illegal dumping stunt is further proof that Los Angeles' gall in this area knows no limits.

Salas has since revised his bill to make dumpers more accountable.

The law should require the manifesting and testing of every load of out-of-county waste hauled into Kern County. Only then we will know if these deliveries are as clean and harmless as Los Angeles claims.

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