Fire, HazMat called to landfill 

Chiquita Canyon Landfill. Eddy Martinez/The Signal.

Fire Department: No public safety threat from equipment malfunction 

L.A. County Fire Department officials responded to a report of a piece of smoldering equipment at Chiquita Canyon Landfill, but officials said their response Monday morning had nothing to do with any problems within the landfill, or a methane leak, which was the initial report from the department’s public information office. 

“The initial callout was ‘center of landfill filtering system burning, will direct (first responders) from the front,’” according to Fire Battalion Chief Kevin DeJong in a phone interview late Monday afternoon. 

When firefighters arrived on the scene, they discovered the facility had “isolated above-ground filtration units” and one of the units “had a very small amount of smoke coming out of a lower flange,” he said. “There was no landfill involvement and there were no gases running through this filtration.” 

DeJong added that an average family backyard barbecue grill probably produces more smoke than this 12-foot-by-24-foot tank was, describing it as “minimal.” Fire officials responded because the landfill contacted the department, he said. 

“Out of an abundance of caution, shortly after 9 a.m. Chiquita Canyon contacted the L.A. County Fire Department to help support the landfill’s efforts with the back-up carbon filtration device,” read an email sent Monday afternoon by Steve Cassulo, general manager for Chiquita Canyon Landfill. “Landfill operations were not affected, nor interrupted, and the situation did not involve the gas extraction systems at the landfill. Chiquita Canyon concurs with L.A. County Fire that there was no threat to public safety.” 

DeJong said in terms of root-cause analysis, officials still weren’t exactly sure what the chemical reaction was happening inside to cause the smoldering within the inactive tank, which is primarily filled with granulated carbon that acts as a filter when it’s in use.  

Supervisor Melanie Flores of the L.A. County Fire Department’s dispatch center said shortly after 10 a.m. the initial call involved a possible methane leak at the landfill. Fire officials later confirmed HazMat personnel were part of the initial response. 

Residents initially raised concerns on social media after the initial report because the facility has been the subject of heightened scrutiny from a range of regulatory agencies over the past six months due to problematic portions of the 640-acre site. In the northern and western sections, the decomposition process has overwhelmed the landfill’s systems that lessen the odor and liquid pollution that occurs naturally in the trash-decomposition process. 

In the past year, the landfill has been the focus of more than 100 violations from the South Coast Air Quality Management District from over 6,000 resident complaints over the stench that has been produced by the landfill’s gases and its leachate-seepage problem. More than 1 million gallons of leachate, a liquid byproduct of rain filtered by landfill gases like dimethyl sulfide, were being produced by the landfill every week by October, according to the most recent figures available.  

The landfill is the subject of a South Coast Air Quality Management District Hearing Board meeting at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday over violations alleging that Waste Connections, which operates Chiquita Canyon, failed to adequately notice the agency with its excavation plans to address the landfill and that it did not report problems with its on-site leachate-collection system in a timely fashion. 

In a CalRecycle report released last year, the state’s lead waste-management agency stated the landfill’s systems to collect leachate — a liquid that naturally filters through a landfill as rain and other moisture in the trash mix with the gases produced from decomposition — were being overwhelmed by the record rainfall from 2022’s winter season. 

The problems were causing a smoldering, subsurface reaction, with temperatures exceeding 175 degrees, according to CalRecycle.   

The meeting’s agenda can be found here:

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