Barger motions to install air monitoring for Chiquita Canyon Landfill

Chiquita Canyon's district manager Steve Cassulo gives a tour of the landfill on Wednesday, March 1, 2017, to members of the public and county commissioners. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

After months of rebuttals from locals and support from businesses concerning the extension of the Chiquita Canyon Landfill, Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger made a motion on Tuesday that addressed health, air quality and odor concerns.

Barger’s seven-page motion, passed unanimously by the board, emphasizes an effort to find a compromise that is beneficial to both the corporation and citizens, she said.

“The county must work to craft a product that listens to the community,” Barger said. “The process is, and always has been, a give and take between the community and the landfill provider.”

The meeting was held to address the four appeals made in opposition of the landfill’s 30-year extension, passed in April, as well as an appeal by Chiquita Canyon in opposition of their increased costs, which were approved by the Los Angeles County Planning Commission in April.

According to Barger, planning commissioners approved the expansion because it addressed immediate needs to dispose of waste.

Under her motion, however, there will be more measures, monitoring and enforcement of the landfill, she said. Barger also said this would be the “last chapter in the story” of Chiquita Canyon.

Chiquita Canyon’s district manager Steve Cassulo gives a tour of the landfill on March 1, 2017, to members of the public and county commissioners on the proposed expansion of the landfill on land Chiquita already owns. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

One of the most cited concerns from residents near the landfill was the lack of proper air quality monitoring, as the closest monitoring system is located seven miles away.

To address this, Barger motioned to have continuous, 24/7 air monitoring at the landfill. Also, she said the landfill will be subject to 12 random tests throughout the year to test the air.

Among her requirements is the annual and quarterly reporting of air quality by Chiquita, as well as a mandate to put air and gas monitoring results online within a week of tests being conducted.

Addressing health concerns raised by residents ranging from headaches to asthma to cancer, Barger’s plan will require a community health assessment study to be conducted.

The landfill’s operators will also have to comply with an odor minimization plan, using “clear and enforceable” measures, Barger said.

Barger’s motion requires groundwater quality monitoring to be conducted at the dump.

Also, Chiquita must log that they are complying with regulations and report this log to the new community advisory committee each year.

To address any complaints from residents concerning Chiquita Canyon Landfill, Barger ordered for the creation of a 24-hour hotline. All complaints must be responded to within three business hours, she said.

Upon the landfill’s closure at the end of their current contract, Chiquita will become an open space recreational park.

Additionally, Barger said the county will continue its work to become a leader in waste conversion technology in the coming years.

Prior to Barger’s motion, all parties who made an appeal were given time to speak, with Chiquita allotted four minutes and those in opposition receiving three.

“Opponents have presented nothing in their appeal that has not already been vetted,” Mike Dean, Division Vice President for Chiquita said.

The landfill corporation filed their appeal in search of lower fees and “good old fashioned common sense,” Dean said. According to the division vice president, the corporation received 700 letters in support of the landfill.

Lynne Plambeck, outspoken opponent of the landfill and President of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment, was one of the four who appealed the April decision to renew the landfill’s contract.

“We are not going to get to zero waste in Los Angeles County if we keep approving landfill expansion,” Plambeck said.

According to the environmentalist, Santa Clarita community members are currently facing the same concerns they were when the landfill was opened in the 1970s.

After the hearing, Plambeck told The Signal she was disappointed that the fees for Chiquita were reduced and the tonnage was increased.

She referred to the hearing and motion as “odd” because the board already had the motion settled before the hearing and did not make any changes to it after everyone had spoken.

“They had already made the decision,” she said.

However, she said she was pleased with all the efforts to increase monitoring.

Tanya Hauser, who also filed an appeal, cited concern about the lack of continuous air monitoring and said there have been 751 air quality complaints.

“The applicant calls themselves Switzerland and a good neighbor,” Hauser said. “They are neither.”

Representing the Val Verde Civic Association, Laurel Taylor said the environmental impact report done on the landfill presented “faulty data.”

With the Sierra Club, Sandra Cattell echoed Taylor’s sentiment and said the health and environmental risks are “undeniable.”

Over 50 community members and business representatives were then given one minute each to voice their worries or support.

Among local speakers opposed to the landfill were former Santa Clarita Mayor Carl Boyer, former city planning commissioner Diane Trautman, Castaic Town Council Members Lloyd Carter and Bonnie Nikolai, University of California, Irvine professor Dan Stokols and California Assembly District 38 Regional Vice Chair Stacy Fortner.

Tugging on heartstrings, local elementary schooler Annaliese Nikolai said the landfill has worsened her asthma limited her ability to play outside.

“It hurts my feelings when people say I’m lying and people say it doesn’t smell,” Nikolai said. “I’m afraid I could die.”

Those who spoke in favor of the landfill included representatives from the Valley Industry Commerce Association, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, SA Recycling, California Waste and Recycling Association, Global Transloading and BizFed.


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