A report from Chiquita Canyon Landfill details Waste Connections’ efforts to reduce the smells that have been plaguing Castaic and Val Verde residents and leading to increasing calls for action at the local landfill.
The report and information on Chiquita’s website that logs all violations also indicated more than 600 complaints have been filed from residents since May.
The landfill has detailed its efforts to reduce the smell, but its web log notes the violations have continued up through this week, according to chiquitacanyon.com.
The data from Chiquita’s website indicates there was only one notice of violation issued all of last year, after three were issued in 2021.
However, since May, there have been 35 notices from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which all identify the same two violations with the same description: “for discharging such quantities of air contaminants to cause injury, detriment, nuisance or annoyance to a considerable number of persons.”
The cause is believed to be the release of levels of dimethyl sulfide, or DMS, as a byproduct of the landfill’s onsite gas-to-energy plant, according to a letter to the county’s Public Works Department as part of a report that was triggered by the landfill’s fourth violation, back in June.
“The unexpected increase in LFG production is further exacerbating Chiquita’s limited flaring capacity,” wrote Steve Cassulo, district manager for Chiquita Canyon. This tends to happen as landfill waste ages and the mass of decomposing matter inside increases.
Cassulo’s letter identifies the suspected cause as DMS, which is released when organic matter breaks down and also is one of the main odors of sea air.
Under the section title “Corrective Action,” he notes:
“Increasing flare capacity is crucial to addressing the underlying reaction and addressing any potential LFG-related odors,” he wrote, which also notes that the preparation has taken longer than expected. It’s now awaiting regulatory approval from the AQMD in order to operate a flare that’s expected to help with the capture of the smelly gas, according to the letter.
The AQMD has to date not responded with answers to any of the questions posed by The Signal with respect to its role in the regulation of Chiquita Canyon.
A county task force is now working on a 30-day timeline to address a number of requests from 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, which were issued at Tuesday’s L.A. County Board of Supervisors meeting.
Ahead of a Castaic Area Town Council meeting next week in which the primary agenda item is a discussion of the situation at Chiquita Canyon, featuring representatives of L.A. County and the landfill, the landfill is hosting a webinar 6 p.m. Thursday on Zoom.
The landfill was designated as the point of contact for community outreach, and a statement issued Tuesday said it shared Barger’s urgency in addressing the concerns.
Landfill officials cited a number of remediation efforts on its site, which have included fans, misters, portable thermal oxidizers to combat landfill-gas flare-ups, as well as extraction pumps and wells that are intended to help with the gas.
“Local residents interested in receiving an air filtration device can request one using an online form located on the odor mitigation page of our website, www.chiquitacanyon.com,” according to a statement emailed Tuesday from Cassulo. “On Thursday, Chiquita will host an online community information forum to share the latest details on the mitigation efforts and to answer questions.”
Those irked by the situation at the landfill include a number who live within a 1- to 2-mile radius of it, such as Abigal Desesa Ordway, who spoke to The Signal and said she is a 24-year Val Verde resident who lives about 1 mile from the landfill “as the crow flies.”
She said the AQMD has been out to her home dozens of times and verified the smells that exist on her rural property, which, she says, have resulted in symptoms that have lowered her quality of life, including headaches, nausea and dizziness.
She criticized the landfill’s lack of taking accountability in its statement, noting on the website the response is worded as, “If the Chiquita Canyon Landfill is the source of these alleged odors, then Chiquita believes that they are most likely due to an increase in the production of LFG at the landfill.”
She also criticized the mitigation efforts to date as being largely ineffective, referring to the log that Chiquita Canyon maintains on its website.
The Chiquita Canyon Landfill report submitted to Public Works was the result of a fourth notice of violation by the AQMD, which started May 17, May 18, June 25 and June 27.
The Town Council has not taken a formal position on the reaction to the situation, according to Desesa Ordway, but the group has a discussion agendized for its 6:30 p.m. Aug. 16 board meeting, which is held via Zoom.
Council President Bob Lewis did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Information on the Chiquita Canyon webinar is available at bit.ly/ChiquitaCanyonTalk.