Bryan Caforio: Dump expansion not just about Val Verde

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Have you ever been stuck in traffic on Interstate 5 behind a seemingly endless line of trucks? If you have, and you don’t speak up now, that might happen even more frequently in the future.

Unbeknownst to many people in the Santa Clarita Valley, right now the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning is considering whether to expand the Chiquita Canyon Landfill (located in Val Verde, five miles from Santa Clarita just north of Highway 126).

The Chiquita Canyon Landfill opened in 1972, and since 1997 it has operated under a conditional use permit that allowed it to continue operating until it accepted 23 million tons of trash.

The landfill has now blown past that maximum level, but rather than shut it down, its owner, Waste Connections, chose to seek approval to expand it.

Waste Connections has now officially requested authority to keep the landfill open and accept up to 12,000 metric tons of solid waste in a single day.

In case that sounds like a lot of trash to haul through town and dump in our the Santa Clarita Valley every day, that’s because it is.

In fact, as far as I‘ve been able to determine, there is only one landfill in the entire world that accepts more than 12,000 metric tons of waste per day, and that’s in South Korea.

We’re talking about some very rarified (and polluted) air we could have the privilege of breathing if Waste Connections gets its way and couonty supervisors go forward with approving this plan.

The largest landfill currently operating in the United States, the Apex Regional Landfill in Las Vegas, Nevada, “only” receives approximately 9,000 tons of waste per day and is located more than 20 miles from its nearest residents.

The Chiquita Canyon Landfill, on the other hand, sits less than a thousand feet from residents in Val Verde and only five miles from Santa Clarita.

That raises additional concerns. For one, the Draft Environmental Impact Report regarding the proposed expansion identifies potential increased cancer risks for people living in the near vicinity of the landfill.

The report calculates an “incremental increase in lifetime cancer risk” for those people living closest to the landfill that is “predicted to be 9.3 in 1 million.” While that is barely below the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s “significance threshold” of 10 in 1 million, that predicted “incremental increase” in cancer risk is still very troubling to me.

Moreover, for anyone concerned about climate change, the draft EIR further concludes that the proposed expansion “would result in the generation of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions in exceedance of the … significance threshold,” and that “operation activities may result in a potentially significant impact on the environment.”

The Santa Clarita Valley accounts for only 2.7 percent of the population of Los Angeles County, and yet, if this expansion goes through, the Chiquita Canyon Landfill will be authorized to accept up to 49.5 percent of L.A. County’s total in-county waste every single year.

Since we don’t create the vast majority of that waste here, that means trucks (lots and lots of trucks) will be driving through the Santa Clarita Valley from all different directions to dump that trash in our backyard.

While the draft EIR purported to examine the proposed expansion’s effects on traffic, aside from considering the “project-related impacts” at eight different intersections, the report specifically did not consider how adding thousands more vehicles hauling trash through our valley every single day could affect our major commuting roadways the I-5, Highway 14, the 210 and so on.

I don’t need a report to tell me that adding so many more trucks every day to our already-overburdened roads and interchanges won’t help us get home any faster.

By all accounts, Waste Connections appears to do a pretty good job managing the dump. But a well-managed dump is still a dump, and no amount of good management at the dump will help reduce traffic through our community as thousands of additional vehicles haul trash through town.

So if you’d rather not get stuck in traffic behind an endless stream of trucks, you enjoy breathing clean air and having a lower risk of cancer, and you don’t want one of the largest landfills in the world to be located in your backyard, don’t despair just yet.

While many of our local, state, and federal elected officials have demonstrated that they’d rather collect campaign contributions than stand up for the community, we have until Jan. 9, 2017, to make our voices heard. Please join me in sending your concerns to [email protected] – and maybe, just maybe, we can defeat this expansion.


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