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Castaic council discusses landfill seepage, spread of smell 

A bulldozer pushes exposed trash at Chiquita Canyon Landfill in this Signal file photo by Dan Watson.
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The scope of the Chiquita Canyon Landfill problem is spreading, based on complaints received by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which is now hearing concerns from as far as Lake Hughes Road to the north and Stevenson Ranch to the southeast. 

A new violation regarding chemicals on the site indicates the problem could be growing worse in scope while the landfill just announced equipment that’s expected to help lessen the smell, which may not be the biggest concern. 

Communities on the other side of Interstate 5 to the east of the landfill have filed complaints, according to a report given Wednesday from Larry Israel, an air quality inspector for the region, during Wednesday’s Castaic Area Town Council meeting. The agency announced another violation this week over the growing leachate problem. 

The landfill also discussed efforts to remediate a growing leachate problem that AQMD inspectors noticed last month. 

The leachate issue involves chemicals created in the same decomposition process that causes the dimethyl sulfide gas, which has been cited as being responsible for the landfill’s problem for months, drawing more than 5,700 complaints this year. 

Similar to what’s happened with the landfill gases, or LFG, the reaction is occurring at a rate beyond the capacity of the landfill’s systems to handle the landfill chemicals, leading to the leachate showing up at unexpected places throughout the facility. 

Landfill officials said Wednesday they don’t have any evidence the chemicals have leaked or seeped outside the facility, but air officials say the chemical is now probably a separate part of the smell problem for Val Verde.  

AQMD officials on Thursday referred a request for the reports from Chiquita Canyon Landfill on the seepage, which were due to the regulators by Oct. 20, to the agency’s Public Records Act request department and said the agency was not making any comment at this time for an ongoing investigation. 

Among the questions the agency sought to answer in its Oct. 6 notice of violation: How long Chiquita has known about the leachate; what all the various sites of the leachate are; and how much seepage has been trucked from the landfill. 

Chiquita answered some of those questions in a limited fashion this week, amid an ongoing class-action lawsuit the company is facing that could cost it millions of dollars. The rest of the information is expected to be in the AQMD reports. 

The agency also announced a hearing scheduled for next month. 

Community meetings  

Israel said the agency also has received complaints from businesses throughout the Valencia Commerce Center, including a credit union on Franklin Parkway, where Logix is headquartered. Employees from various companies in the industrial park have mentioned complaints of odors detected in their parking lots for months.  

The Castaic Area Town Council hosted the discussion during its monthly virtual meeting, which included the senior counsel for Waste Connections, owner and operator of Chiquita Canyon Landfill, and the facility’s general manager. 

It was the second conversation of the week, following the Chiquita Canyon Landfill Community Advisory Committee meeting Tuesday, when the pair also shared their updates on progress that the landfill has made toward remediation. 

The upshot is that a third flare has been installed, which is expected to run constantly, except during maintenance, and could make an impact. However, Israel said he doesn’t expect the problem to go away until the issue is fully remediated, and the complete timeline is still uncertain. Questions about the health impacts likely will remain as such until the completion of a report under way by L.A. County Public Health officials, which is expected next year.  

The public also will get another chance to weigh in on concerns next month when the AQMD has another hearing to consider additional orders for the landfill regarding the leachate situation, which also now is believed to be a part of the odor problem in Val Verde, and something addressed by Waste Connections. 

Report from landfill officials 

One of the first concerns that John Perkey, vice president and deputy general counsel-compliance and government affairs with Waste Connections, sought to address was issues surrounding the excess leachate.  

Chiquita Canyon Landfill was issued a notice to comply Oct. 6 over concerns about leachate, demanding the landfill produce records regarding when the leachate seep was discovered, how many gallons of leachate have been pumped out and the records of its disposal, among other requests. 

The Signal also has requested these records from the AQMD, which ordered Chiquita Canyon to produce the documents by Oct. 20. 

Perkey did not address any of the questions in the AQMD’s order, but he said the company tests the groundwater quarterly, and there’s no evidence that the chemicals are breaching the multiple efforts the landfill is making to stop the seepage.  

“One of the impacts to the facility has been the generation of additional leachate, and what this creates is a leachate seep,” he said, explaining how the system normally works with leachate collection, and what’s happening when those levels exceed the collection system’s capacity, which is what’s happening now. 

Perkey said Chiquita has systems in place, including land berms that separate the intrafacility drainage system from its external stormwater drainage system, to make sure the leachate “is contained on site and managed appropriately.” 

Steve Cassulo, district manager for Chiquita Canyon, also confirmed this week the landfill met its deadline to have a flare operational, added a second, much larger oxidizer and has plans for a fourth flare in the works.  

Cassulo said having all four flares operational would be integral to returning the landfill back to its usual condition. The flares are linked to a horizontal and vertical system of wells the landfill also is working to expand, which act as vents. The wells allow the LFG to be funneled into the flares and oxidizers that eliminate the gases, usually before they’re detected in the atmosphere,  except now the systems are being overwhelmed, Cassulo said. 

Council questions  

Castaic Area Town Council President Bob Lewis said Thursday he appreciated the updates on the flares to address the landfill gases, but now he needs to hear more discussion on the long-term solutions for addressing the landfill’s chemical problems. 

“Something … I think needs to be looked at in a wider scope is, (Chiquita is) identifying the leachate, the liquid that’s causing the gas that’s causing the odors that’s causing the problems, and they’re removing the leachate,” he said. “But I think we need a discussion on … if they’re going to be able to stop what is causing the leachate; if so, how do you do that; and how long is that going to take?” 

During the council meeting, Abigail DeSesa Ordway, who represents Val Verde, also reiterated her request on behalf of residents for new air filters. The landfill purchased home-office filters for residents closest to the landfill in August, when the problem first started to become widespread, and now the original filters are black, she said. 

Cassulo confirmed a new order was in, but it was not immediately clear how residents should get a new filter from the landfill.  

DeSesa Ordway also was joined in her representation of Val Verde by the newest member of the Castaic Area Town Council, Oshea Orchid. Orchid is the only person who applied to fill the vacancy for Region 2. She’s also the attorney representing more than 100 plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the landfill.

Last month, during a discussion of a CalRecycle report on Chiquita Canyon Landfill, Dr. Nichole Quick, deputy director of the Department of Public Health’s Health Protection Bureau, said the county’s independent analysis of the health impacts would likely be ready in 2024. 

The company’s website is chiquitacanyon.com. The landfill also recently extended the deadline for residents who have seen increased bills as the result of the landfill’s smell.  

If you’d like help with the paperwork, one-on-one appointments will be offered on days and times suitable to residents’ availability. Appointments can be made by dialing 626-547-4056 or online at ChiquitaCanyonLandfillRelief.lacda.org 
Next hearing  

Israel also said there would be another chance for residents to weigh in on concerns about the landfill on Dec. 12, when the AQMD is hosting another hearing to consider more regulations for the landfill. 

“There will be public testimony allowed again,” Israel said. “We’re going to be focusing on imposing more conditions on the landfill with respect to this leachate-seepage incident, so you’ll probably be hearing more about that next month.” 

The meeting’s time and agenda have not yet been posted on the AQMD South Coast District’s website, aqmd.gov, as of Thursday afternoon.  

The landfill also has a progress report hearing on its current conditions and restrictions scheduled for January. 

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