Chiquita Canyon Landfill officials hope to have a new flare that will help mitigate the odor at the facility by October, it was announced during a public meeting Tuesday at Castaic Library.
The landfill has been producing increased levels of dimethyl sulfide, a stinky thiol or sulfurous organic compound, which has been emitting increased levels of a rotting garbage smell in parts of Castaic and Val Verde that surround the landfill.
During a two-hour meeting of the Chiquita Canyon Community Advisory Committee at Castaic Library, landfill District Manager Steve Cassulo, as well as engineering consultants hired by the landfill, and county officials shared information with the community over the ongoing mitigation efforts that are underway.
About 80 residents filled the meeting room inside of the library to get more information about the situation that’s worsened over the course of the year, with a handful of complaints from residents near the landfill in January becoming more than 30 per day for the month of August, with social media posts indicating the scent was reaching as far away as Hasley Canyon.
Questions about the potential long-term effects were once again brought up, to which the county did not yet have complete answers.
Miki Esposito, deputy director of L.A. County Public Works, added the county was hiring its own toxicologist to provide officials with an independent analysis of the situation.
“I wanted the county to know that, you know, we’re losing the public trust,” said Lloyd Carder, a resident and former Castaic Town Council president, “and in doing so I think we need to look for the solution and I’m just glad to hear about a third party.”
The South Coast Air Quality Management District, which investigates complaints about the landfill and issues violations when it’s found out of compliance, also discussed the status of more than 1,700 complaints the landfill has received since the beginning of the year, which has led to more than 40 violation notices.
Larry Israel of the AQMD reported the agency has received as many as 60 complaints in a day in the last several weeks, which are now happening so regularly “you can almost set your watch to them,” he said.
From 7 to 9:30 a.m., the complaints tend to come from the Val Verde area in the south, which are wind-driven, he said, and as the day heats up, the complaints die down, before picking up again in intensity throughout the evening. The complaints increase starting around 9 p.m. and continue past midnight, in areas stretching to Sloan Canyon. One resident called out during the meeting that the smell is at its worst around 3 a.m., so they should test the air then.
Cassulo began the meeting with an explanation of the problem, again saying the previous landfill operator’s handling of waste created the situation the landfill is trying to deal with today.
He also said the landfill would be adding DMS testing to its air-monitoring efforts in neighborhoods surrounding the landfill.
A representative of SCS Engineers, the landfill’s consultant, also helped answer questions from the public, adding it would take about six weeks to cover about the approximately 30-acre cell that’s believed to be the problem.
When committee member Sandra Cattell asked if whether another older cell in the roughly 640-acre landfill could create a similar problem to the current one, Cassulo said, “It could. That doesn’t mean it would.”
Cassulo added that it will be something the landfill is watching out for going forward.
Committee member Bob Lewis also asked for methane testing, which SCS Engineers said was something they “could look into,” but wasn’t part of the immediate plan because methane is odorless, and the focus now is addressing the smell.
“This question has come up over and over again and I think it needs to be addressed,” Lewis said, adding that its odorless property doesn’t make it any less hazardous.
In terms of detecting the other VOCs, SCS Engineers said going forward the landfill would be testing for all of the volatile organic compounds, including sulfide ones, that it could.
Cassulo also said the sampling, which will include weekly smell testing, would be focused on the areas where the complaints have been lodged when the scent seems to be the worst.
Cassulo said residents who are impacted by the smell can receive a free air filter that Chiquita Canyon Landfill is giving out to those who fill out a form.
Information regarding the landfill’s mitigation efforts are available at: chiquitacanyon.com/reports/odor-mitigation. The landfill is also scheduling another public meeting in September, with additional information available on the odor mitigation page.
The Town Council is also planning to host a Zoom discussion for residents during its regularly scheduled meeting, which is set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Complaints can be logged with the AQMD through its hotline 1-800-288-7664 (CUTSMOG).