County sued over broken promise to shut down landfill

A compactor rolls over the exposed trash at a 200 x 200 foot "working face" site at the Chiquita Canyon Landfill in Castaic in 2014. As soon as the the trash is spread and compacted it is immediately covered with dirt and the working face site moves forward. This view looks south-west towards the new proposed expansion site, and In the distance is the tall ridge which blocks the land fill from view of surrounding communities. Dan Watson/Signal

Groups opposed to the approved expansion of a landfill near homes and schools in Val Verde have sued Chiquita Canyon Landfill owners and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors which approved expansion of the landfill.

Attorneys with the Law Office of Babak Naficy, based in San Luis Obispo, filed a lawsuit Thursday with the Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of three groups – Val Verde Community Association, Citizens for Chiquita Canyon Landfill Compliance and Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment (SCOPE).

Named in the civil suit are the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and landfill owners, Chiquita Canyon Landfill LLC, a copy of the lawsuit obtained by The Signal shows.

Tony Bell, spokesman for District 5 Supervisor Kathryn Barger, referred any official response to the lawsuit to county attorneys.

John Musella, spokesman for Chiquita Canyon Landfill, when asked for a response to the lawsuit said: “Chiquita does not comment on pending litigation.”

The civil suit is a petition for writ of mandate and a “complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief” – or, simply, holding the board supervisors accountable for a promise they made in the past which in this case refers to a promise made in 1997 to close the landfill.

The promise made 20 years ago was to shut the dump down in November 2019 or when peaks with 23 million tons of trash.

SCOPE spokeswoman Lynne Plambeck said the landfill has reached its 23 million tons cap.

Former city councilman Carl Boyer speaks out against the expansion of the Chiquita Canyon landfill during a press conference and protest outside of Santa Clarita City Hall on Monday, April 24, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

As spelled out in the lawsuit, the county approved a conditional use permit for the operation of the landfill in 1982 and again in 1997.

The permission granted in 1997 came with the expressed, specific, condition that the landfill would be shut down in 2019 or when the dump on Highway 126 contained 23 million tons of trash.

So, when the county board of supervisors approved the landfill’s expansion this summer it was in violation of the promise made in 1997, according to the groups.

“They said exactly the same thing in 1997 when they approved the conditional use permit,” Plambeck told The Signal Tuesday.

“We have to hold the county’s feet to the fire and make sure they prepare a proper (environmental impact report) because their current EIR is not correct,” she said.

Last year, the landfill took in 2.8 million tons of garbage – an unprecedented amount of trash.

Planners with the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning granted a conditional use permit by setting an annual dumping cap of 2.1 million tons of garbage.

The original permit set by the county and signed in 1997 allowed for 6,000 tons of trash to be dumped there in a day, on average, Musella said.

The company wanted the county’s permission to deposit 12,000 tons of garbage each day at the landfill – and they got it.

Supporters in bright green and opponents in various shades of red attended a meeting at Rancho Pico Junior High March 1 to voice their support or concerns about the proposed expansion at the Chiquita Canyon landfill for county commissioners who were to decide on the fate of the project March 1, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

The lawsuit reads, in part: “Petitioners (groups opposed to the landfill) contend the County’s approvals were unlawful and that the County abused its discretion as it failed to comply with the procedural and substantive requirements of the California Quality Act.”

Erica Larsen, President, Val Verde Community Association, told The Signal Tuesday: “We’ve done our due diligence.

“We live a mile and a half from the landfill,” she said, referring to her family. “The health implications are our biggest concern.  We don’t know what the air quality is.”

Anyone wishing to add their voice to the chorus of concerned people opposed to the expansion of Chiquita Canyon Landfill is urged, Larsen said, to fill out a copy of the petition posted on

The groups – as a collective – decided what is also needed is a vigorous debate with county officials on how to cope with an increasing amount of trash being dumped in the county.

“We live in a throw-away society,” Plambeck said.

“We have to bring more attention to this nationwide waste issue.”


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