AQMD delays release of landfill report 

A compactor rolls over the exposed trash at a 200X200 foot "working face" site at the Chiquita Canyon Landfill in Castaic Nov. 2, 2016. As soon as the the trash is spread and compacted it is immediately covered with dirt and the working face site moves forward. This view looks south-west towards the new proposed expansion site, and In the distance is the tall ridge which blocks the land fill from view of surrounding communities. Dan Watson/Signal

Air Quality Management District officials said Tuesday they’re unable to release a report from Chiquita Canyon Landfill about how much chemical the landfill has leaked into the soil after officials discovered a problem Oct. 6. 

The South Coast AQMD issued a notice to comply on that date, compelling the landfill to provide the air regulators with a detailed report on when and where the leachate seep was first discovered by the landfill and how much has been disposed of, by Oct. 20. 

More than one month later, AQMD officials announced Nov. 17 the agency was issuing two notices of violation to the landfill. 

The two notices were given: “for the landfill’s failure to maintain the leachate collection and storage system in good operating condition, failure to report the breakdown of equipment and other permit condition violations” and “for failure to submit a landfill excavation plan,” according to a news release the agency issued. 

Shortly after the announcement, John Perkey, vice president and deputy general counsel-compliance and government affairs with landfill operator Waste Connections, took part in a community discussion in which he said none of the leachate, which is essentially the stinky chemical byproduct of the odorous gas reaction that’s earned the landfill more than 5,700 complaints, has left the facility.  

However, problems with the facility’s systems and the lack of information from the report on the problem leave lingering questions. 

The smell, which is the result of a smoldering, subsurface reaction caused by mismanagement of an older section of the landfill attributed to its previous operators, has spread as far as Stevenson Ranch to the southeast and Lake Hughes Road to the north, according to the most recent reports mentioned by the AQMD. 

Residents have noted the leachate seepage has a distinct odor from the landfill gases, which first started being noticed in July. 

“During a recent on-site inspection, South Coast AQMD inspectors saw leachate seeping out of the ground and out of gas collection wells. The investigation revealed that the facility’s leachate collection and storage system was malfunctioning and that the company failed to notify the agency as required by air quality regulations,” the agency announced in a news release. “Additionally, inspectors determined that the facility did not submit a landfill Excavation Management Plan before beginning excavation activities to remove leachate from the site.” 

During the Nov. 17 virtual discussion, AQMD officials announced there would be a public hearing next month when they would consider additional violations noticed at the landfill. There have already been close to 100 so far this year. 

After the Nov. 17 discussion, The Signal requested the reports that Chiquita was compelled to supply to the AQMD by Oct. 20, and in response the AQMD mandated the filing of a California Public Records Act request. 

Four days later, the agency responded that it would release the requested reports within about 90 days of the request, which would be months after the hearing the AQMD has called on the matter. 

The meeting in which AQMD is expected to discuss potential violations is 10 a.m. Dec. 12, according to the AQMD website. An official said the agenda for that meeting would be posted Friday.  

When the timing concern was brought up to the state agency, Connie Mejia, senior public affairs specialist with the media office for the AQMD, issued the following response: 

“You can continue to check in with the (Public Records Request) team for a status on your request. We will continue to see if there is anything we can do on our end, but at this time, I’ve checked and it looks like the timeline they gave you still stands.” 

No reason was provided for the AQMD’s refusal to release the public record sooner than the timeline provided. 

L.A. County officials — who have the ultimate authority over the landfill’s operating permit as its issuer and require Chiquita Canyon to maintain a log of violations on its website — were contacted Wednesday afternoon for the information, which is pending as of this story’s publication. 

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS