first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2Patchett said he expects city officials to deny the claim. He said the city can then be added to the neighbors’ pending lawsuit against Smith & Thompson, its sister firm S&S Environmental and the firms’ operators. City Attorney Dave McEwen said he had not seen the claim and did not know if its allegations were correct. “We will go through out normal investigation of it,” McEwen said. While courts have ruled that crime victims can’t sue a city or its police department for failing to protect them, Patchett said in this case Lancaster officials may have opened themselves to liability by providing some of the waste that neighbors said has sickened them. City documents obtained by Patchett under a state Public Records Act request show Smith & Thompson was hired to haul away liquid waste from the city’s soccer center and its maintenance yard in May 2005. The document shows the waste was to be turned over to S&S Environmental at the Avenue L-9 property shared by both firms, where seven months earlier a search by state officials found a 5,000-gallon tanker nearly full of toxic waste. LANCASTER – Neighbors of a waste-hauling business ordered shut down by the City Council have filed a $5 million claim against the city, a prerequisite for adding the city to their lawsuit against the waste firm. The neighbors’ attorney says city officials hired Smith & Thompson Pumping Co. to haul away septic waste, old tires and other unidentified waste from city facilities, and continued to do business with the firm even months after state environmental officials searched its property in an investigation that resulted in criminal charges against two employees. “They were doing business with them at the time they knew they were being investigated for criminal allegations,” said Anthony Patchett, a former environmental prosecutor who is representing 14 neighboring residents and business people. The claim, filed Tuesday, says Smith & Thompson’s neighbors along West Avenue L-9 were sickened by dust and odors coming off the property and that city officials had received complaints about it since August 2004 but continued doing business with the firm. Another document showed Smith & Thompson was paid $1,000 by the city in July 2004 to haul away two 55-gallon drums of unknown material. “I think the city someday might have to realize there is a paper trail that doesn’t look good. There were people whose complaints to them that were totally ignored for awhile. They swept them under the rug,” Patchett said. The City Council voted 5-0 Tuesday night to affirm the revocation of Smith & Thompson Pumping Co.’s business license on the grounds that the firm stored waste in its trucking yard in violation of the area’s light-industrial zoning rules. Thousands of tons of material stored at Smith & Thompson’s yard on Avenue L-9 were hauled away this spring under Los Angeles County health officials’ orders. Smith & Thompson employee Sherwin Smith, who was also part-owner of the firm S&S Environmental that operated on the site, has pleaded not guilty to 36 felony charges of grand theft, illegally storing and disposing of hazardous waste, and forgery. He was arrested last September along with a truck driver after a state investigation concluded that toxic industrial waste was illegally stored on the property and that documents were falsified about what was done with it. Smith & Thompson attorney Michael Kelly told the City Council the firm has been operating legally within the rules of its permits, and he said the piles of material about which neighbors complained were tested repeatedly and found not to be harmful. The company has spent tens of thousands of dollars hauling away material he said was stored by S&S Environmental, of which Smith is part-owner. Patchett said tests indicated the neighbors were subjected to hydrogen sulfide gas and E. coli bacteria. He said contaminants were brought below concentrations considered hazardous by blending waste with other inert material to camouflage it.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more