Landfill officials discuss mitigation efforts ahead of Hearing Board 

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

Chiquita Canyon Landfill officials this week shared updates on their efforts to lessen the stench wafting from the Val Verde facility — which has generated odors that have been reported as far away as Stevenson Ranch and Valencia in recent weeks. 

Due to the increased production of sulfurous landfill gases like dimethyl sulfide, part of a reaction that’s also producing more than 1 million gallons of leachate a week — the volume of about two Olympic-sized pools — Waste Connections’ Chiquita Canyon Landfill has drawn more than 6,000 complaints and 100 violations in the past year.  

A representative of L.A. County’s Department of Public Health said Friday the agency’s independent report on potential health impacts from the landfill is expected to be available in February, adding an exact date was not yet available.  

A spokeswoman for Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose 5th District includes the Santa Clarita Valley, said in a conversation Friday her office recognized the urgency of the matter and that she was working with the county task force she convened to get the information to residents.   

The Chiquita Canyon Landfill Community Advisory Committee has convened monthly with community members and landfill officials since the smell issue became widespread in July to discuss the problems at the landfill and what’s being done about them. 

The landfill also is expected to be the subject of a 9:30 a.m. Tuesday meeting of the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s Hearing Board regarding two violations levied in November against the landfill: An AQMD inspector cited the landfill for not properly noticing the agency of its excavation plans to repair the problems it’s had and for not initially reporting that the leachate seepage issue was not properly contained in the landfill’s system. 

At this past week’s meeting, landfill officials described their recent work regarding the drilling of wells to support the landfill’s gas and leachate-containment systems, which, as landfill officials have mentioned, is expected to make the smell worse in the short term in an effort to address the landfill’s problems more permanently.  

A report from CalRecycle released late last year attributed part of the landfill’s problems to a near-record rainfall level last winter, which resulted in a much greater anticipated level of a reaction that regularly occurs at a landfill. The report described it as a smoldering, subsurface reaction, which the landfill has disputed. 

The landfill is planning to build at least 70 more of the dual-extraction “cactus” wells, which remove gas and liquid, and to give an idea of the pace of the work, the landfill announced Tuesday that 13 of the wells had been installed in the month since the prior committee meeting. One of the issues mentioned by landfill officials is that the wells must be completed before a more permanent cover can be placed over the problematic sections. 

“It’s very critical to get these wells in, so we can get that gas and that liquid out,” said Steve Cassulo, general manager for Chiquita Canyon Landfill, adding the landfill also is trying to do the drilling work at times when the winds are “favorable.” 

Having said that, there is a geosynthetic cover expected to be placed over a troubled section of the western side of the facility within a week, he added. 

“Now we’re going to do everything we can to mitigate the odors from the drilling,” Cassulo said, adding that creating the 36-inch holes as much as 250 feet into the trash “does cause a little bit of an odor.” 

“The idea behind this is to get those in place as quickly as possible,” he added, saying the landfill would be putting large fans next to the drilling sites pointing away from the nearby neighborhoods. 
One of residents’ main concerns about the lawsuit has been the potential health impacts from both the leachate that has been found in the soil and the landfill gases. Those concerns also were brought up during the more than three-hour meeting Tuesday. 

Residents filed a class-action lawsuit last year that the landfill argued to have moved to federal court because it could involve a multimillion-dollar payout, according to court filings. 

The plaintiffs, who now number more than 200, are being represented by Oshea Orchid, who also sits on the Castaic Area Town Council as a Val Verde resident. 

The lawsuit is asking the county to shut down Chiquita Canyon Landfill and seeking damages for medical bills that residents have because of the impacts to their health from the landfill’s problems. 

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