Garbage Dump Near Huntington Beach Schools Prompts Lawsuit

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The Ocean View School District has filed two lawsuits after claiming an uncovered garbage dump near two Huntington Beach campuses is making students ill.

Two schools in the OVSD, Oak View Elementary and Oak View Preschool, are directly across the street from Rainbow Environmental Services, described as a trash transfer station on its website.

Gina Clayton-Tarvin, president of the OVSD Board of Trustees, said “the trash transfer station used to be employee owned but was purchased by Republic for $112 million.”

Clayton-Tarvin said Oak View was built in the early 1960s, well before Rainbow opened on Nichols Lane in the early 1980s.

“The dump is completely open air, there is no enclosure, like is now mandatory under current California law,” Clayton-Tarvin said.

In November 2013, Huntington Beach city officials approved Rainbow Environmental Services application to change zoning on a 4-acre site at the corner of Warner Avenue and Nichols Lane, just 30 feet away from Oak View Preschool, from residential to industrial. The move would allow Rainbow Environmental Services to move its administration building and garbage truck fleet to the site. The OVSD is now suing the city of Huntington Beach to overturn the rezoning.

The district filed a lawsuit stating that the California Air Quality Act (CEQA) was violated in the rezoning of the property next to the preschool by not addressing the significant impacts development of industrial uses would have on adjacent schools and nearby residences, according to OVSD attorney Ed Conner. This case is going to trial on June 2, 2015, in Santa Ana Superior Court.

“Since I was elected last November we have been working aggressively to find a resolution,” Huntington Beach city attorney Michael Gates said.

The OVSD has also filed a nuisance lawsuit against Rainbow Environmental Services and its owner Republic Services to get the trash processing plant to enclose all operations or shut them down.

In the past six months the SCAQMD has issued four violations to RES, most recently in March.

“They are conducting illegal garbage processing operation,” Conner said. “They are tipping and they are sorting and they are transferring sold waste, raw garbage outside an enclosure. It’s supposed to be inside of a building.”

According to Rainbow Environmental Services website, “Rainbow's 17-acre campus is located in Huntington Beach, California. It is the site of our transfer station that is permitted to accept 4,000 tons per day. Our state-of-the-art single stream clean material recovery facility and several mixed waste processing stations were designed to efficiently handle various material streams such as green and wood waste, commercial and multifamily waste, and construction and demolition debris.”

OVSD trustees said the facility is currently only processing about half of that, so there is clearly room to grow.

John Briscoe, OVSD Board of Trustees Clerk, said the stench from Rainbow is making children vomit at school daily and says the seagulls who grab animal carcasses from the open trash areas fly onto school property and drop the bones where kids play.

Margaret Friedmann, who has been teaching at Oak View Elementary for 17 years, said the students routinely run from seagulls to escape their feces. Friedmann said the birds leave excrement everywhere, including on students’ lunch tables.

In addition to the foul odor and seagull problems, the children have also dealt with potentially toxic concrete dust in recent months from crushing going on at RES, Clayton-Tarvin said.

“The kids sometimes come in from lunch and from playing and they have concrete dust on them, you know concrete is a carcinogen, this is something that should not be allowed,” Clayton-Tarvin said.

Sue Gordon, a representative of Rainbow Environmental Services, provided this statement to KTLA in response to our requests for an interview:

“Republic Services in Phoenix forwarded me your request for information regarding the Ocean View School District lawsuit against Rainbow Environmental Services. It is a matter of company policy to not comment on litigation -- in this instance allegations of odor.”

The nuisance abatement case is scheduled for a jury trial in October.

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated the school district was suing the city. This post has been updated.