Alleged violations prompt Chiquita Canyon lawsuits

A compactor rolls over the exposed trash at a 200X200 foot "working face" site at the Chiquita Canyon Landfill in Castaic Nov. 2, 2016. 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

Chiquita Canyon LLC, operator of Chiquita Canyon Landfill, has two pending lawsuits against Los Angeles County, one challenging the terms of its conditional use permit, another in response to a notice of violation given to the landfill claiming its operators are in violation of the county’s operating terms, county officials said Thursday.

Landfill representatives disagreed with conditions set forth in their new permit after being granted an extension of 30 years in July 2017. They subsequently filed a suit in October 2017 challenging 29 of its new CUP’s conditions of approval, including $11.6 million in bridge and thoroughfare fees, according to court documents.

The county subsequently issued a notice of violation in December 2017 that claimed the landfill failed to comply on four of the CUP’s conditions, said Dušan Pavlović, senior deputy county counsel. The county’s notifications alleged: a failure to heed a prohibition of auto shredder waste; a failure to post bilingual signs regarding unacceptable wastes; a failure to pay fees for waste originating out of the area; and the landfill’s non-payment of the $11.6 million, according to lawsuit documents. Additionally, there were penalty fees of $83,000 and a noncompliance fee of $746.

In response, attorneys for Chiquita claimed the violations had no merit and filed another lawsuit against the notice on April 13, Pavlović said.

Chiquita attorneys claim that the terms for the $11.6 million were unclear and the report did not specify the need for fees.

Pavlović said the $11.6 million is based on calculations stated in the county’s fee district report. The text in the permit through which Chiquita operates states that in regard to B&T fees: “in accordance with the formulas, procedures and requirements set forth in the February 2011 Report for the Westside Bridge and Major Thoroughfare Construction Fee District… The fee amount is due and payable prior to the Effective Date and is based upon the fee rate in effect at the time of the Projects Effective Date” and “each gross acre of an industrial site is assessed at three times the applicable FDU rate.”

Representatives of Chiquita Canyon declined to comment on the pending litigation.

The Signal learned of the pending litigation at the April 18 meeting of the Castaic Area Town Council from a presentation by Rosalind Wayman, Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s senior field deputy for the Santa Clarita Valley.

It was the first time litigation against the county was mentioned in a formal capacity to the council, said council President Jessica Chambers.

The council and Val Verde Civic Association, which represent community members that live near the landfill, were not officially notified of either lawsuit prior, said Town Council Vice President Bonnie Nikolai.

“There are agreements in place that stipulate that the community is to receive money during their operation of the Chiquita Landfill,” said town council member Lloyd Carder. “These contracts required payments to the community of Val Verde under the original agreement, and under the new agreement to be dispensed by LA County to the Castaic community. While I know there is a lawsuit against Los Angeles County, I question how they can operate and not pay these fees to the community. If they are operating on the old contract during this class action, then they are in breach of that contract.”

Chiquita has owned and operated the landfill since 1972. In 2015, the landfill received 22.5 percent of the waste disposed in landfills in L.A. County.

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