Just across the two-lane street from Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach, garbage trucks and 18-wheelers full of trash pull in and out of the waste transfer station run by Republic Services 10 to 12 hours a day, six days a week. Teachers, students and residents of this primarily Latino neighborhood have complained for years about dust, foul odors and flocks of seagulls around the dump.
But last week they got some good news: In an agreement settling several lawsuits with the Ocean View School District, which includes Oak View Elementary, the waste management firm committed to fully enclosing the transfer station and equipping all buildings with state-of-the-art ventilation and air filtration systems. Republic also agreed to build a $4 million gymnasium for Oak View students and pay for a barrier of trees to separate the school from the transfer station.
The company further agreed not to expand operations into the adjacent, historic Wintersburg property, which Republic owns, and to give the school district an option to purchase the land, according to Gina Clayton-Arvin, board president of the Ocean View School District.
Oak View resident Victor Valladares, who co-founded the organization ComUNIDAD to push for improvements at the dump, praised the settlement.
“Everybody is very happy that the dump is finally going to be enclosed after so long,” he said.
Valladares, who is 30 and grew up in Oak View, remembers making a game with his grade school friends of dodging flocks of pooping seagulls attracted by the dump, which was operated by Rainbow Environmental Services until a few years ago.
Later, he came to suspect that dust from the dump might have something to do with his asthma and other respiratory problems that he said are common among kids in the neighborhood.
Valladares said the Ocean View School District helped neighbors channel their complaints about the dump.
“First and foremost, the people made the difference,” he said. “The people complained, they called the right agencies, and we got our voices heard.”
Gina Clayton-Tarvin, board president of the Ocean View School District, praised Republic for the settlement.
“They’re going above and beyond what we asked for in the original action,” she said. “I think they want to mend their relationship with the community ... because let’s face it, it wasn’t so good before.”
Dave Hauser, area vice president for Republic, said construction to improve the transfer station could start soon, pending permits from the City of Huntington Beach.