When Republic Services Inc. acquired what it called one of Southern California's largest independent solid waste haulers, Rainbow Disposal Co., in 2014, the company also inherited an ongoing lawsuit with the local school district. Now, two years later, the company has settled with the Ocean View School District in Huntington Beach, Calif., and the two sides are optimistic about the future of the relationship between the district and the waste facility.
Two district schools, Oak View Elementary and Oak View Preschool, are located across the street from Rainbow’s transfer station in the low-income neighborhood of Oak View. For years the district has complained about dust, odors and bird feces stemming from solid waste business at the facility.
This month, the district and Rainbow Environmental Services, which is operated by Republic, jointly announced that all pending litigation has been settled. Both sides spoke positively about the agreement.
The settlement means the company is making a significant investment in the Oak View community, and restoring a strong partnership with the Ocean View School District, said Republic spokesman Dave Hauser in a press release.
For years, the Rainbow facility, which was built after the school buildings but before California law required enclosures to protect air quality around transfer stations, drew complaints from the schools, neighbors and the school district.
In fact, in the past two years, in response to those complaints, the South Coast Air Quality Management District cited the facility 10 times, for violations, including foul odors. Additionally, Ocean View trustees filed multiple lawsuits against the facility siting foul smells from rotting organic waste, nuisance of birds and other animals and dust thick enough to cover indoor and outdoor lunch tables at the schools.
According to the settlement, Republic is funding improvements to its transfer station, including a new 45,000-sq.-ft. building, renovations to enclose existing buildings and facilities and installation of state-of-the-art ventilation and filtration measures.
The company will spend an estimated $18 million for the full enclosure of all solid waste operations, full ventilation and particulate filtration, and negative air pressure on all buildings, odor-destroying active chemistry treatment to the exhaust from all buildings and an extra layer of carbon filtration installed, said Gina Clayton-Tarvin, president of the Board of Trustees for the Ocean View School District on her website.
Rainbow will spend up to $4 million to construct a gymnasium, which will provide a sanctuary for the children, teachers and staff of the Oak View Schools in the event any breakdown or malfunction at the Rainbow site causes dust or odors to escape the fully-enclosed facility. The funds also can be used to plant screening trees between the schools and the Rainbow Facility.
Finally, the agreement states that Rainbow will refrain from using the nearby Historic Wintersburg Site for expanding operations, truck storage or other uses inappropriate for a location adjacent to a preschool. The district will have an option to purchase the Wintersburg Site at fair market value, and a right of first refusal in case Rainbow decides to sell the property to developers. These rights are assignable to other governmental entities or historical societies that may wish to purchase the property to develop a historical park facility on the site.
“I am pleased to say that the future looks really bright for the Oak View schools and the surrounding Oak View community,” said Gina Clayton-Tarvin, President of the Board of Trustees for the Ocean View School District, in a press release.
The lawsuit filed by the district achieved its goal of obtaining enclosed transfer facilities and additional steps to minimize the impacts on students, teachers, administrators and staff.
Clayton-Tarvin credited Republic for the settlement, which she says never would have happened without them. After purchasing the Rainbow Transfer Station, Republic heard the concerns from the Oak View community, and is taking these steps to address the concerns.
“I look forward to a new positive relationship with the facility moving forward,” she said.
To prevent the need for further litigation, both sides agreed to a communication protocol allowing the district access to high ranking Rainbow personnel to discuss any problems. Rainbow agrees to address and respond to any concerns within the same business day if possible, or within a maximum of 24 hours. There will be a three year “cooling off” period, in which no new lawsuits may be brought, though any new claims may be asserted in the expedited arbitration process during that three-year time period.
Enforcement of the Settlement Agreement will be done exclusively through an expedited arbitration process, which will prevent costly and drawn-out litigation, while retaining the parties’ ability to protect their legal rights.
Rainbow also will pay $2.15 million to cover the bulk of the attorney’s fees incurred in the action by the school district, which has no responsibility for the remainder of the fees. The settlement comes at no charge to the taxpayers.