As the Castaic and Val Verde communities settle in for another year of dealing with the stench from local landfill gases and leachate pollution that’s led to thousands of complaints, Chiquita Canyon Landfill formally announced what’s been said in meetings for months now: The smell is going to continue to worsen for some before it gets better.
Landfill gases, or LFG, at Chiquita Canyon Landfill have been the subject of thousands of complaints and over a hundred violations since July.
In the meantime, residents have filed suit against L.A. County and the facility’s operator, Waste Connections, seeking to shut it down over the complaints and lingering health questions, which have, to date, remained largely unanswered.
In a conference call in November, county officials again said their own independent health report on the possible effects of the landfill would be available early in 2024, but no timeline has been given yet.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District was scheduled to host a meeting 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, but that’s been rescheduled for the same time Jan. 16, according to an AQMD official.
Operators have cited a subsurface reaction caused by the mismanagement of waste in an older section of the landfill handled by previous operators. The result of that, combined with a near-record amount of rainfall last winter, wreaked havoc on the landfill’s system, according to statements from the landfill and a report issued by the state regulator CalRecycle.
The flares meant to capture the stinky, sulfurous LFG were overwhelmed. One more has been added, and another is in the works. The leachate-seepage collection systems, which are responsible for containing and managing the liquid byproduct of waste reactions after it mingles with rainfall, failed starting in April and led to a problem an AQMD inspector could see seeping into the ground in October.
Both systems are incumbent on the landfill having a working well system underneath, officials said, which was the cause for notice and explanation from the landfill Friday.
The landfill’s operators plan to add several dozen more of these wells, which requires drilling into the problematic sections of the landfill. That means the smell, which has only grown in scope since it first gained widespread notice in July, is expected to continue into the spring for the duration of the drilling.
“Chiquita’s current plan is to install at least 70 new wells over the next few months. This is in addition to the 62 new or replacement wells Chiquita has already installed since July 2023,” according to a statement shared Friday by John Musella, spokesman for Chiquita Canyon. “Chiquita began drilling for this next phase of expansion in mid-December 2023 and is planning to drill 10 new wells over the next week. As Chiquita conducts this work, it is important to keep in mind that these installations require drilling new holes in the landfill, which may, in the short term, increase odors.”
The work is considered a key part of the landfill’s plan, according to the notice, and “necessary to resolving the odor issue in the long run.”
The Chiquita Canyon Landfill Advisory Committee is hosting a community meeting 6 p.m. Tuesday in person at the Castaic Library (27971 Sloan Canyon Road).
In December, it was announced that the Environmental Protection Agency was joining the multiagency task force working on the issue, along with the State Water Board, over the leachate concerns.
“The Los Angeles Water Board is currently part of an interagency work group on Chiquita Canyon Landfill that meets weekly and includes AQMD, CalReycle, (Department of Toxic Substances Control), U.S. EPA, and CalEPA. Los Angeles Water Board staff has been investigating the leachate seep at the landfill since October after it became aware of the issue in late September,” according to a statement shared by Ailene Voisin of the State Water Board, on behalf of the L.A. Regional Water Board, which has oversight.
“The cited violations include failing to report the leachate seep and failing to maintain adequate leachate and landfill gas condensate containment systems to prevent the comingling of leachate and gas condensate with surface water. The board directed the landfill operator to immediately correct the above cited violations and submit a written report by Dec. 22.”
The agenda for Tuesday’s Chiquita Canyon Advisory meeting is posted at the L.A. County Planning Department website at planning.lacounty.gov.