Chiquita landfill now has over 2,400 complaints 

Chiquita Canyon Landfill. Eddy Martinez/The Signal.
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Community fund website set up by county 

The response to the foul smell coming from Chiquita Canyon Landfill has intensified in the past two weeks.  

Several residents banded together to file a lawsuit, litigation regarding a community fund is beginning to wrap up, the South Coast Air Quality Management District issued multiple notices of violations and Supervisor Kathryn Barger — whose 5th District includes the Santa Clarita Valley — ordered the creation of a task force that brought resources of four different county government departments in an effort to expedite solutions. 

At a community advisory committee meeting on Tuesday, held at the Castaic Public Library, representatives from the landfill, AQMD, Barger’s office, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, the L.A. County Department of Public Health and the L.A. County Department of Regional Planning briefed residents on updates regarding efforts to quell the stench.  

According to all of them, the source of the smell — which has been described as being akin to “sour milk” and “rotten eggs” that causes nausea, headaches and other health-related concerns to residents — is a pool of water that’s collecting at the bottom of the landfill and by gas, mainly dimethyl sulfide, percolating from the top.  

The gases coming from organic breakdown of materials from the landfill is somewhat typical, although the intensity of the smell is not. However, the chemical processes that caused the pool of water at the bottom to be formed still mystifies Steven Cassulo, district manager for the landfill.  

“It’s something I’ve never seen before, but it’s a reaction. That’s what the reaction is doing, it’s got hydrogen molecules that are attaching to oxygen and creating H2O in the landfills and that’s what we need to slow down. We need to get that out of there,” said Cassulo.  

To fix the gas issues, Cassulo said the landfill is in the process of applying for two new flares — which are machines that combust the gas. To fix the water issue, Cassulo said they’ve added 10 new wells and will need to add 20 more. He also said that his team of consultants — which greatly expanded in the past few weeks and now includes a permanent toxicologist — do not know exactly what’s causing the reaction and that they may never know.  

Cassulo also said his consultants didn’t know how long it would take to fix the water issue, but that it could last months or even years. The announcement of this caused groans of disappointment from the audience.  

Following Cassulo’s report, Larry Israel, representing the AQMD, announced that over 2,400 complaints have now been collected — with over 400 over them happening in September alone. He also urged residents to continue to make complaints, even if they’ve already filed a complaint, to keep up the pressure to ensure a swift remedy to the issue.  

In regards to a community fund from the landfill that is supposed to be distributed to residents, Alex Garcia, the assistant deputy director of the land use regulations division of the Regional Planning Department, delivered a report to residents. The land use regulations division holds the conditional use permit for the landfill.  

In regards to money being distributed to residents, there was a settlement agreement that was recently approved, but the applicability of that settlement agreement is not final until a conditional use permit modification is approved. At the time of this publication, the application is still in process of being approved and the hearing date is not yet set.   

However, a website ( for the community fund has been set up and will go online on Wednesday at 5 p.m.  

“The program is in its infancy stages… it doesn’t have a lot of details right now.” said Garcia. “They’re still developing…  LACDA is continuing to develop guidelines and materials for this program for you to go in and apply for the monetary system.” 

The fund can help pay for utility costs, such as using air conditioning to filter out the smell and gas, as well as property rehab.  

“First of all, I want to commend the county for getting that fund almost done. It’s not done, but just some icing on the cake,” said Gary Horton, a member of the advisory committee. “That’s one of the first things we’ve heard in these meetings where something tangible has gotten done… I think everyone in this room has heard so often ‘we will be doing or we’re going to do it’ and it seems like so many things are at an undetermined time in the future. And I believe the suffering is quite serious and tangible and aggravating.”

As the number of complaints began to increase significantly in the past month, media attention to the matter intensified and government regulation came down harder; the AQMD followed suit, after a nearly eight-hour meeting last week, it ordered the landfill to complete over 40 additional measures and modifications to remedy the situation.  

Among other things, the stipulated order requires Chiquita to complete the following actions: 

  • Conduct odor surveillance twice each operating day, once in the morning and once at night. 
  • Sample the sulfur compounds in the landfill gas weekly. 
  • Conduct surface sampling across the reaction area every two weeks. 
  • Submit monthly reports to the South Coast AQMD containing information and data collected under the stipulated order as well as updates on the implementation of the longer-term improvement projects to the landfill gas and liquids collection and control systems, landfill cover, and more. 
  • Work with a team of subject matter experts to study various aspects of the reaction and its impacts, potential causes of the reaction, and potential ways to mitigate the reaction and any related odors. 
  • Expand the landfill gas and liquids collection and control systems. 
  • Increase flaring capacity. 
  • Maintain proper landfill cover. 
  • Procure and install a geosynthetic cover over a western portion of the landfill. 
  • Install and maintain a semi-permanent vapor odor control system and a landfill perimeter odor control misting system. 

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