County receives air quality update for Sunshine Landfill

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Air quality at the Sunshine Landfill proved outside the safety threshold set by the state for 19 days this past summer.

A committee of public officials representing Los Angeles County and the city of Los Angeles met Wednesday for a quarterly update on environmental concerns closely monitored at the Sunshine Canyon Landfill on The Old Road.

For the past two years, officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning have been hearing about efforts to minimize odors emitting from the landfill, but on Wednesday, the focus shifted to air quality tests carried out between June and August.

The committee — made up of representatives of Public Works and Public Health departments — is called the Joint City/County Technical Advisory Committee.

Since 2007, regular tests monitoring the amount of particulate matter in the air have been carried out at two sites — the landfill itself, and at the Van Gogh Elementary School in Granada Hills, about a mile south of the landfill.

While explaining the relevance of air quality tests done at the elementary school in Mission Hills, Timothy Stapleton, spokesman for the Regional Planning Department, noted those who live a mile north of the landfill in Newhall would be just as affected depending on the direction of the wind.

On 19 days last summer, the amount of particulate matter exceeded safety threshold set by state officials, landfill officials told committee members.

And, at the elementary school, the amount particulate matter exceeded the same threshold on one day — Aug. 7, 2018.

“It is likely that wildfire smoke from the Holy Fire contributed to these high concentrations,” according to a report from the engineers who carried out the tests.

“We are currently reviewing the report, and will be contacting the South Coast Air Quality Management District for follow-up,” Stapleton said.

The landfill submits its test findings to regional planners as a condition of the county permits it receives for using the land.

“The SCAQMD is the agency that regulates air quality for the Sunshine Canyon Landfill and SCAQMD enforces all required state standards,” Stapleton said.

“Any enforcement action taken by the Department of Regional Planning for those referenced exceedances will be at the request of the SCAQMD,” he said.

Like regional planners, the focus of concern has been the odors coming from the landfill.

“Since 2009, SCAQMD has issued 223 Notices of Violation to Sunshine Canyon landfill, almost all of them for nuisance odors,” said Sam Atwood, spokesman for the SCAQMD, at Wednesday’s meeting. “Odor complaints received and resulting violations have decreased dramatically since 2015 as a result of SCAQMD’s efforts to mitigate odors at the landfill.”

The Sunshine Canyon Landfill is owned and operated by Browning-Ferris Industries of California. In turn, BFI is owned by Allied Waste Inc., and is a wholly owned subsidiary of parent company Republic Services Inc.

It straddles the city of Los Angeles and the county, on The Old Road, a mile north of Balboa Road.

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