Future of Community Recycling awaits final decision

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - The future of Community Recycling & Resource Recovery Inc., the facility near Lamont where two brothers died after breathing toxic chemicals in October 2011, now rests on a superior court judge's final decision.

Monday marked the closure of the civil trial between Community Recycling and the Lamont Public Utilities District's joint suit against Kern County, which revoked the facility's conditional use permit in November 2011.

Armando Ramirez, 16, and his 22-year-old brother Heladio, died on Oct. 12, 2011, after they inhaled toxic gases during the cleaning of a storm drain system on the property.

Attorneys for both sides gave their final arguments in front the judge and about 20 people from the Committee for a Better Arvin, reiterating statements made during the first two days of the trial.

Lawyers for Community Recycling argued that the land the boys were injured on was not a property that fell under the permit.

They also said that the Board of Supervisors could have considered other options as a punishment, but instead acted too quickly and emotionally when deciding to revoke the permit, which one lawyers called a "sledgehammer" move and "irresponsible."

The attorney's for Community Recycling and the LPUD added that the closure of the facility would hurt the local economy and the environment, saying about 130 workers would lose their jobs and that the facility processes nearly 25 percent of the state's compost.

But county lawyers argued that the county had the authority to revoke the permit based on repeated violations by Community Recycling, which paid a company to enter the storm drain five times after the deaths when it was ordered by Cal/OSHA to stay out.

The lawyers said it was an issue of public safety because the problem was a "clear and imminent danger" to workers, which forced the closure.

When asked whether the shutdown was an excessive choice, lawyers for the county did not deny that the move could be looked at as a "nuclear option," but that the board of supervisors did not "abuse its power."

The judge in the case is expected to make a ruling in the following days.