County announces Chiquita Canyon progress; residents want to know when smell will get better 

A trash truck dumps its load at the Chiquita Land Fill in Castaic in 2018. Dan Watson/The Signal
A trash truck dumps its load at the Chiquita Land Fill in Castaic in 2018. Dan Watson/The Signal

Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger delivered two bits of news to Castaic and Val Verde residents Monday: Residents in a certain radius near the landfill who’ve been impacted by the odors coming from Chiquita Canyon Landfill are eligible for up to $2,000 grants; and the South Coast Air Quality Management District approved an expansion of the landfill’s capability to capture gas, which is expected to help with the smell. 

However, Castaic and Val Verde residents have been hearing since July all of the ways that the landfill is working to address the smell and since then, they say the issues have only worsened. 

The AQMD confirmed Tuesday the agency has received 125 complaints from Friday to Monday, and another violation was issued Monday. The smell has resulted in more than 75 violations to date and literally thousands of complaints this year alone. 

While news of additional flare capacity was greeted positively, Castaic Area Town Council President Bob Lewis said Monday there are still questions that residents have about when the problem will start getting better. 

If landfill officials are correct, the new flare could have a significant impact, and the AQMD approval comes with a 45-day deadline for implementation, according to a statement from Barger’s office Tuesday explaining the process. 

Steve Cassulo, district manager for Waste Connections, which operates Chiquita Canyon Landfill, said at one of the first community meetings Aug. 10 that the South Coast AQMD’s approval of the additional capacity for the landfill’s flare would be important in reducing the gases that are causing the smell. 

The smells are being caused by decades-old waste that wasn’t properly managed, according to Cassulo, and the increased reaction is producing more gas than the current flares can handle. 

“Because of the rapid increase in the landfill gas production, resulting from the reaction, we will need the ability to pull and process more landfill gas from the landfill,” Cassulo said via Zoom. “In order to do so, we need additional flaring capacity, or in other words, more ‘vacuum’ on the gas field.” 

In a “revised announcement” on the flares Tuesday, Barger explained how the new equipment is expected to work.  

“Once constructed, the new flare will then be spark-ignited using solar panels, while filters and flame arrestors are used for safety. The thermal reaction eliminates landfill gas orders by destroying the odor-causing gases that exist deep within the landfill,” according to the release. 

The news that this third flare will be delivered to the landfill Oct. 10 brings added questions to the remediation timeline, according to Lewis, who said he still hasn’t heard a definitive date or any kind of timeline for when the smell is expected to go away. 

Lewis, who also sits on the community’s advisory committee for the landfill, said the remediation was explained to him as a three-part process, which starts with pumps that the landfill is already using to drain problematic water at the landfill. The next step is then the construction of 140 vertical gas collection wells — bringing the grand total of allowable wells to 250 at the site.  

The approval of more wells, which was also announced Monday, is intended to support the additional flare, which again, must be up within 45 days, per its permit. Once the system is installed, a cover can be placed over the problematic section of the landfill, which is also expected to help with the smell.  

“I think the next step for the landfill is to tell us where they are in that process,” Lewis said, “but they haven’t given us a hard and fast number yet and I know the community and I know the council is wanting that as soon as possible.” 

Lewis added that the missing information likely was caused by the constantly changing situation in recent weeks, particularly in response to requested actions by the county and the air quality board.  

On Thursday, the landfill is planning to discuss updates with the community in another Zoom talk. On Oct. 10, there will be another chance for residents to get updates at the Community Advisory Group meeting, Lewis said  

An official with Chiquita Canyon was not immediately available to address how quickly residents will be able to notice a difference after the flare is installed. 

The landfill’s Odor Mitigation page on its website did announce an updated timeline for the landfill’s pending remediation orders: 

Chiquita’s Technical Advisory Committee is expected to meet Oct. 24. On Nov. 15, a quarterly report is due to the Department of Public Health summarizing data collected in the expanded and enhanced community air monitoring program from July through the end of last month.  

Perhaps the most important deadline for many will be the Jan. 15 deadline for Chiquita Canyon to submit a report to South Coast AQMD on “known health risks from acute and long-term exposure to (dimethyl sulfide), including recommended actions for persons exposed to DMS for acute and long-term durations.” 

Both L.A. County and the landfill have hired toxicologists to study potential health concerns that have been claimed by residents and the subject of an ongoing lawsuit against the landfill. 

Barger touted the job Tuesday of the Public Works Department, which turned around the landfill’s application to build a foundation for its new flare in a day. 

“(A third flare) is an important tool that will help with odor-control by dissipating the gases trapped in the depths of the landfill,” Barger wrote. “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.” 

To view the Zoom meeting 6 p.m. Thursday, the link is: The next CAC meeting will be 6 p.m. Oct. 10 at the Castaic Library. The library is located at 27971 Sloan Canyon Road in Castaic. Public comments will be received at these meetings. 

For information on how to take part in Chiquita Canyon’s grant program, which is now accepting applications, visit Grant awards will range between $1,000 to $2,000 per household. 

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