AQMD moves hearing board meeting  

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

After a flurry of communication, the Air Quality Management District is rescheduling a hearing board meeting over a violation alleging Chiquita Canyon Landfill didn’t disclose problems with its leachate-collection in a timely manner. 

An email Sunday morning from the agency’s director of communications noted the hearing was postponed to Jan. 9, without citing the reason for the reschedule.  

Legal counsel for the South Coast District said Tuesday a miscommunication was part of the reason behind the delay for a California Public Records Act request of an admittedly timely, “very impending” request about Chiquita Canyon Landfill records ahead of a hearing board meeting that had been scheduled for Dec. 12. 

State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, also sent a letter shared by the Castaic Area Town Council, urging CalRecycle, the state’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, for “further assistance to expedite the implementation of your recommendations to CCL.” 

The local landfill has been working for months to address a smoldering, subsurface reaction that’s producing leachate and smelly landfill gases at levels that have overwhelmed the facility’s equipment and impacted nearby residents’ quality of life for months. 

Bob Lewis, president of the advisory Town Council, said the group has yet to send a letter regarding a formal position on the landfill. But members have met with representatives of county 5th Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the Santa Clarita Valley, to express their concerns. The council also has a committee working on the issue. 

A spokesman for Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo’s office said she was not available for comment this week on the issue. The Chatsworth Democrat represents most of the SCV, including Castaic and Val Verde. 

The smell from the landfill gas known as LFG, and the leachate, another byproduct of the chemical reaction that causes the gas, have drawn about 6,000 complaints this year, which started ramping up in July and have not gotten better despite a number of mitigation measures the landfill has been taking.  

“As you are no doubt aware, the smell has worsened over the course of this year leading to thousands of complaints,” Wilk wrote Nov. 27 to CalRecycle. “I have heard from residents who were unable to open their windows this summer because the smell, akin to ‘rotten eggs’ and ‘burning plastic,’ was so bad they were forced to run their air conditioners and swamp coolers all day. The consequences of this situation have caused them financial burden and physical stress, such as skyrocketing utility bills and otherwise unnecessary doctor visits.” 

The AQMD has leveled more than 100 violations, with the latest being issued in November over the agency’s findings that the landfill failed to notify regulators of an excavation plan for a troubled section of the landfill Chiquita is working on and the discovery of problems with its leachate-collection system.  

However, officials have not given any indication of what’s to come in January save for a scant agenda posted last week, citing a policy on not discussing information regarding an active investigation. 

Residents, including the 200 or so who are suing Chiquita Canyon and L.A. County to try to have the landfill shut down, have sought the information in reports that the AQMD required of Chiquita when inspectors first noticed the landfill was having a problem with its leachate-collection system in October.  

An Oct. 6 notice-to-comply issued by inspector Gerardo Vergara asked the landfill to provide the records of its leachate seepage, when it was first discovered and how much has been pumped out of the landfill’s soil.  

A call this week from legal counsel for the agency indicated the group responsible for processing the public records request was unaware of a link to the documents that represented Chiquita’s response, which was sent Oct. 20, when the documents were due.  

In response to a request, the landfill supplied its response to the AQMD, which The Signal published. The Signal is still waiting for a formal response from the AQMD on the request.  

Records shared by Chiquita indicate that the leachate volume being produced at the landfill was around 500,000 gallons a week in April and had reached 1 million gallons per week by October. The landfill became aware of the seepage problem in April, and observed it spread to the landfill’s northern border by August. 

The AQMD attorney indicated a review of the documents was now under way for any possible redactions or information that would be presented at January’s hearing. The person indicated it would be unlikely the request could be filled by the hearing, while acknowledging there was a public interest in releasing documents regarding pollutant-monitoring efforts in a timely fashion. However, that was prior to the reschedule of January’s meeting. 

A representative for Barger’s office said the supervisor also was trying to work with the state agencies responsible to get the landfill in compliance and better understand the scope of the problem. 

Barger also convened a task force to get a cohesive group working to address the landfill’s issues. That group also is expected to release an independent report early next year on its analysis of any possible health issues associated with the violations. 

While the AQMD and CalRecycle have regulatory oversight of Chiquita Canyon Landfill through their various areas of responsibility, Chiquita operates under a conditional use permit originally issued by L.A. County, which was renewed for a 30-year extension in 2017

“I greatly appreciate your collaboration with the county of Los Angeles,” Wilk’s letter to CalRecycle states. “I am also requesting that CalRecycle offer relief to affected residents. Your expertise on this issue is critical, and I look forward to working with you in finding timely solutions for these communities.” 

The council’s Community Advisory Committee for Chiquita Canyon Landfill meets regularly online and in person to discuss issues. It’s meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in person at Castaic Library (27971 Sloan Canyon Road). 

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