In what is called a “first step” to help those afflicted by a sulfurous stench emanating from Chiquita Canyon Landfill, 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger announced how residents can get their hands on up to $2,000 in grant money available for eligible households.
On Monday evening Barger also announced the approval of a landfill flare expected to expand the ability of a renewable-energy plant at the landfill, which officials say could help reduce the smell that’s caused complaints, violations and lawsuits in Val Verde.
Chiquita Canyon Landfill has been the subject of emergency remediation orders and a pair of task forces from its two main regulatory agencies — L.A. County, which permits its operations, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
The landfill has incurred near daily violations since July for odor complaints caused by a chemical reaction that’s releasing more landfill gas than the facility’s equipment can process.
As a result, a smell that many have likened to rotting trash permeates various neighborhoods surrounding the landfill in Val Verde and Castaic, before the winds somewhat dissipate the smell during the day.
The smell often returns in the evening when the winds die down, according to a number of residents, who frequently liken the smell to what one might expect if trash was left in a bin to rot and then someone lifted the lid.
The money, which can be applied for online, is meant to help those who have incurred costs as a result of their personal efforts to mitigate the stink.
“This is a first step in bringing support to the residents who, day in and day out, are dealing with odors coming from Chiquita Canyon Landfill,” Barger wrote in a statement issued over the weekend. “Many households have racked up high electricity bills by keeping their windows shut and constantly running their air conditioning systems as a way to keep the smell from penetrating their homes further. While the county’s team of experts works with the landfill’s owner, state, and federal agencies to address the root cause of the problem at hand, I’m hopeful this will bring some relief.”
The South Coast AQMD office’s authorization of a third flare for the landfill “allows it to be connected through plastic manifolds to vertical wells that are linked to above-ground vents. The authorization also allows Chiquita Canyon Landfill to construct an additional 140 vertical gas collection wells — bringing the grand total of allowable wells to 250,” according to a news release from Barger.
It essentially means the landfill will be able to process more of the sulfur-based landfill gases that are being emitted, including dimethyl sulfide, which is believed to be responsible for the odor, according to a previous explanation by Steve Cassulo, district manager for Chiquita Canyon Landfill, in explaining the need for the AQMD approval.
“I’m very glad that SCAQMD has allowed a third flare to be added to this fight. It is an important tool that will help with odor-control by dissipating the gases trapped in the depths of the landfill,” Barger said. “I am especially pleased that our Public Works Department issued a permit for the flare’s foundation in less than 24 hours. This is the type of urgency and fast action that I am expecting. The surrounding community deserves nothing less.”
Castaic Area Town Council President Bob Lewis said he was appreciative that Barger was hearing the community’s concerns and responding to them, acknowledging some of the expenses residents have incurred because of increased air-conditioning bills, insulation costs and health care.
Lewis said he was still working with county and state officials for clearer lines of communication for residents, and he also said residents have yet to hear a concrete timeline for when the issue would be addressed.
He also said, prior to Monday evening’s announcement about the flare, that he didn’t think the timeline challenge was a case of Chiquita trying to hide anything. He acknowledged there were a number of regulatory steps involved in the flares, and then work to be done once the permissions were granted.
L.A. County counsel also sent Chiquita Canyon Landfill a request in September that the landfill reduce its daily tonnage intake by 35%, per the landfill’s conditional use permit, “until the source and the cause of the odor problem are definitively established, the corresponding remedial measures implemented, and it becomes clear that the odors have been eliminated or reduced to such a level that there no longer exists an unacceptable threat to the health, safety, and/or welfare of the county’s residents or the environment,” according to a letter sent by the county counsel’s office.
There have also been a number of mitigation measures that the landfill has undertaken, which are listed on the landfill’s website. However, by most accounts, the landfill’s smells have only worsened and spread along with concerns about the smell.
Chiquita Canyon Landfill officials declined to comment when reached Monday.
Applications are now being accepted for the Chiquita Canyon Landfill Utility Relief Grant Program.
“The application can be completed online at ChiquitaCanyonLandfillRelief.lacda.org,” according to a release from Barger’s office. “Grant awards will range between $1,000 to $2,000 per household.”
The applications for the first round of the program must be completed by Oct. 31, according to the release.
A map on the website identifies “Tier 1” residents, closest to the landfill, and “Tier 2” residents who would be eligible after all of the Tier 1 families have been addressed. The area covers a portion of Val Verde, which has a population of about 3,177 people. The smell has been regularly picked up in the Hasley Canyon area, according to area residents. The applications for the first round of the program must be completed by Oct. 31, according to the release.
Residents who need help completing an application can make an appointment to receive in-person support at the Los Angeles County Castaic Library, located at 27971 Sloan Canyon Road in Castaic. Appointments are available on Oct. 11, 17 and 26 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and can be made online at ChiquitaCanyonLandfillRelief.lacda.org