What should have a beautiful Shakespearean comedic ending turned out to be a complete tragedy last Wednesday at the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission hearing to extend the 45-year life of the Chiquita Canyon Landfill an additional 30 years.
How sad it was to see all the actors in this play – the regional planning commissioners – going through the motions of listening to the community respond to this extension.
There have been three hearings during which residents listed reasons this landfill should have been closed last June after reaching the 23-million-ton accumulation of waste that had been agreed upon as the trigger for permanent closure.
The reasons are many and they are strong; among them are the following, though there are many more of equal, critical importance:
• Pollution of air in the entire Santa Clarita Valley, with a high concentration of micro-pollutants that enter the lungs, causing asthma and other respiratory diseases;
• An increase of more than 500 trucks each day traveling on the already congested Interstate 5 and Highway 126 roads;
• Less than 10 percent of the trash is from Santa Clarita. Trash is trucked to Chiquita from as far away as just north of Tijuana, Mexico;
• Residents of Val Verde, where the landfill is located, have been subject to negative health effects with young children, elderly and animals being most susceptible to the impacts of the landfill;
• Reduction in quality of life and property values for those living in the Santa Clarita Valley;
• There is a viable alternative: the Los Angeles County Regional Landfill in Mesquite, where the trash can be hauled by rail. This facility is located many miles away.
With so many reasons why the Chiquita Canyon Landfill should not continue adversely affecting the lives of nearby residents, as well as those in surrounding communities, you would think there would be some public discussion among the Regional Planning Commission to enable reaching a judicious decision in this matter.
But no. Immediately after listening to 25 people voice their concerns, without a pause, not a word about the pros and cons of this conditional use permit – not one word. What a disappointment!
To a person, everyone who spoke in favor of this extension had a financial interest in it one way or another. In addition to business partners, it was the policy of the landfill to distribute gifts and funding for various community groups: giving the appearance of buying favor.
Not the way this should work! The fact that an out-of-town corporation doles out favors to a few should not cause the planning commission to cast aside the concerns of the many who live and work in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Public health should not be sacrificed to allow the favoring of business interests. The county itself is recipient of some $700,000 each month in tipping fees from the landfill. How can it consider itself a judicious arbiter in this decision?
Back to Shakespeare: “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” It would seem the few who have been trusted are those who put profit over people. All should be loved. Wrong has been done. Why no discussion between commissioners?
This bears all the earmarks of a backroom decision. Where is the transparency?
All did not end well.