Chiquita Canyon successfully appeals $5M in fees after county hearing officer ruling

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 Landfill no longer has to pay more than $5 million in penalties and fees imposed by Los Angeles County Public Works after the county hearing officer ruled in favor of the landfill in an appeal.

On Feb. 20, Department of Public Works officials announced that Hearing Officer Rossana D’Antonio’s decision “is to rescind the Enforcement Order of Aug. 30, 2017 and any associated administrative penalties.”

“The company is pleased with the decision and appreciates the close attention of the hearing officer to the evidence and law,” James Little, senior vice president for engineering and disposal for Waste Connections, which owns and operates the landfill, said in a prepared statement.

Public Works issued the order at the time for what it determined to be delinquent fees totaling $5.13 million, alleging that Chiquita Canyon underpaid solid waste management fees as a result of failing to comply with reporting requirements involving “the quantity of beneficial reuse materials being received, processed and disposed at the (Chiquita Canyon Landfill)…,” according to the hearing officer’s six-page decision.

In her findings, she points out the disposal of clean soil at the landfill. She said fees are calculated for each landfill based on the amount of solid waste that is received, collected, conveyed or hauled. D’Antonio found that Chiquita Canyon did not dispose of clean soil at the landfill, which would have qualified for fee application. The landfill instead stored soil for daily cover and other practical uses at the locale.

The hearing officer also found that Public Works “failed to demonstrate its independent authority under the (Los Angeles County Code) or statute to reclassify clean soil as excessive beneficial reuse material, making it waste and subject to the (solid waste management fee).”

D’Antonio also rejected what the department called an “industry standard” 4:1 ratio for what constitutes excessive beneficial reuse and instead said it was “anything but arbitrary,” due to lack of evidence or testimony.

“This hearing officer recognizes that the operation of a landfill is dynamic and that waste-to-cover ratio determinations and calculations are not an exact science,” the decision reads.

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Tammy Murga

Tammy Murga

Tammy Murga covers city hall and business for The Signal. She joined in the summer of 2018, previously working in Northern California as an assistant editor and reporter for the Lake County Record-Bee. In 2016, she graduated from Mount Saint Mary's University, Los Angeles. Have a story tip? Message her on Twitter or at [email protected]