published 4/16/2009 on Grunion Gazette
Crews were out this week putting a new dirt cap on top of the land along Loynes Drive and near Studebaker Road where a property owner recently had torn up land designated as wetlands.
The land is a former landfill and the use of bulldozers and other equipment exposed methane and other toxins on the site, according to officials with the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
That is why last week the state Coastal Commission issued an emergency permit to allow a dirt cap to be put on top of the exposed land. The work should be done by this week.
There were concerns from some environmental groups that the soil needed to be from another wetlands area. The issue was that in a future delineation study of wetlands, this site now could be left out because of the type of soil. City officials said the order called for “clean fill dirt.”
Sean Hitchcock, the owner of the land, has said he had torn up the land to comply with city orders for weed abatement and he had no idea it was wetlands. It was city officials who came out and gave Hitchcock’s crews a stop-work order when the incident first took place.
The action led to widespread protests by environmental and wetlands protection groups, who called for financial punishment of the property owner. Long Beach will not be fining Hitchcock for unpermitted work on the land because it is not within the city’s jurisdiction to do so, said Assistant City Manager Suzanne Frick at a public luncheon last week.