Chiquita Canyon problems facing elevated state, federal scope 

A bulldozer pushes exposed trash at Chiquita Canyon Landfill in this Signal file photo by Dan Watson.

At a Chiquita Canyon Landfill Advisory Committee meeting Tuesday, a federal official announced the Environmental Protection Agency was stepping in to seek ways to help residents quell a smell that’s earned thousands of complaints and expanded in scope since July.  

Fifth District LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the Santa Clarita Valley and previously convened a county task force on the landfill, issued a statement Wednesday saying she welcomed the support. 

“They are stepping up to the task of helping identify solutions and bringing resources to the table for an incident that has gone on for far too long,” according to a statement emailed on behalf of the supervisor by Helen Chavez, her director of communications. “I appreciate their efforts to help expedite approval of the recently installed flares, one of the many critical mitigation measures needed to eliminate the odors impacting the community. I also welcome the added coordination support — there are more than six state agencies, as well as the South Coast Air Quality Management District, working in coordination on a State Task Force for this incident. I will continue stressing the need for urgent action and will look to the U.S. EPA to do the same.” 

A member of the committee speaking on background said the details are still being hashed out in terms of the exact roles each agency will play, but the person’s understanding was that the concerns over water and potential additional state and federal agency regulations are what prompted the issue to be elevated. 

The problem has expanded in nature since landfill workers first began to notice the facility’s leachate-collection facility seeping to the surface in April. 

By August, the problem had expanded from the western border of the landfill to the northern border. 

In October, the landfill reported the issues to the AQMD, after an agency inspector noticed the leachate seepage had reached the soil. The agency was regularly inspecting the landfill to verify one of the 100 or so violations the facility has received. 

Following the Oct. 6 notice to comply, the landfill notified the AQMD of the issues and was then hit with a violation for that, as well as for failing to notify the agency of its plans to excavate the problematic portion of the landfill. 

Officials with CalRecycle, the state agency with oversight of waste-management facilities, released a root-cause analysis that stated the problem was being caused by an older section of the landfill where the waste was mismanaged by the facility’s previous operators. It’s currently owned by Waste Connections, a national waste-management company headquartered in Texas. 

More than 200 residents have joined a class-action lawsuit against the landfill and L.A. County seeking to shut down the facility over what they allege are health problems caused by the facility. 

Legal counsel for the landfill said in November that the company has no evidence that the leachate seepage that’s overwhelmed its collection system — similarly to how the landfill gas dimethyl sulfide has overwhelmed the flares meant to capture the sulphury stench that’s troubling residents — has impacted the local water supply.  

However, one of the announcements from Tuesday’s meeting of the landfill’s advisory committee was that there was a call for testing the Santa Clara River for any potential impacts. 

An email to the State Water Resources Control Board regarding the agency’s potential involvement in the investigation is currently pending a response from state officials. 

The AQMD announced in November there was to be a meeting scheduled Tuesday morning of the South Coast District’s hearing board regarding a discussion of the violations. On Sunday, an AQMD official emailed to say the hearing was moved to Jan. 9

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