Area residents, Chiquita Canyon landfill, county in mire of lawsuits

Chiquita Canyon Landfill. Eddy Martinez/The Signal.

As Los Angeles County and operators of Chiquita Canyon Landfill prepare to go head to head with two lawsuits, residents of the affected Val Verde area remain in the fray with a lawsuit of their own.

Local organizations Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment, Val Verde Civic Association and Citizens for Chiquita Canyon Landfill Compliance are suing the county on the grounds that it is violating the California Environmental Quality Act by allowing the landfill to continue its operations.

In July 2017, the county granted the landfill an extension of 30 years with a new permit, when it’d been originally slated to cease operations after 2019, according to the lawsuit.

CEQA is a statute that requires state and local agencies to identify and mitigate environmental impacts of their actions, which the county did not do when it extended Chiquita Canyon’s license for operation by 30 years in July 2017, said Lynne Plambeck, SCOPE president.

The lawsuit is on the grounds that the county failed to adequately analyze the impacts on air quality or establish monitoring stations to see if the landfill was negatively affecting residents before an extension was granted, according to the lawsuit.

“The (county’s) Final Environmental Impact Report … does not utilize ambient air quality data from the local communities most acutely affected by operation of the landfill,” the documents stated.

Instead, the county relies on data collected from faraway monitoring stations in Newhall, Reseda and Burbank, which range from 7-26 miles from the landfill, the report said.

Now the residents want to fight back and revoke the approval from last year. The current extension violates conditions from the landfill’s previous conditional use permit in 1997, Plambeck said.

The community could have 2.19 million tons of disposed waste per year and 4 million tons of diverted waste per year if the landfill continues operation, according to the lawsuit documents.

“I think promises should be kept when an agreement is made with a community,” Plambeck said. “The county should keep its promises. If the public can’t count on the county to enforce its conditions, then why are we having public hearings? It’s as though they’re ignoring our concerns.”

One course of action the residents would like the county to take is to establish better air monitoring. Plambeck said many Val Verde residents have been getting sick, and community speculation suspect the landfill is to blame.

“But there’s no monitoring equipment to show air pollution problems,” she said. “If they have an odor complaint, they have to call up the state regulators… It can take up to three hours, and by that time the wind could’ve changed. The community wants continuous monitoring, and they want have someone local to investigate these complaints. They deserve that. They put this landfill next to that historical community.”

Representatives from the Val Verde Civic Association and C4CCLC declined to comment.

Landfill representatives declined to comment on this lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed in August 2017.

It has no set trial date, yet, county officials said.

The Val Verde lawsuit joins two pending lawsuits filed by Chiquita Canyon Landfill against the county, one challenging the terms of the landfill’s 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.

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.

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

The current set trial date is July 17, according to the county counsel’s office.

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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