Barger calls on Chiquita Canyon Landfill to relocate neighbors afflicted by odors

Chiquita Canyon Landfill. Eddy Martinez/The Signal.
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Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger called on Chiquita Canyon Landfill on Thursday to “urgently provide relocation assistance services” to residents from surrounding communities who request it due to the stench emanating from the landfill that has drawn thousands of complaints over the past year.  

In a letter addressed to one of the landfill’s top executives, Barger urges Chiquita Canyon Landfill to take immediate steps to address the suffering experienced by community members — many of whom attended Wednesday’s presentation on an independent health risk study conducted at the supervisor’s direction by the L.A. County Department of Public Health.  

“We are at an important crossroads. Although we have a significant number of organizations involved from the federal, state and county government levels, it has become increasingly clear to me that there is no predictable end in sight,” Barger wrote in the letter addressed to John M. Perkey, vice president and deputy general counsel for Waste Connections, which owns Chiquita landfill and is headquartered in The Woodlands, Texas.  

“As you continue working to comply with oversight and odor abatement requirements, the very real and significant impacts to those living near the landfill must be addressed,” wrote Barger, whose supervisorial district includes the Santa Clarita Valley.  

The letter also calls upon Chiquita Canyon Landfill to provide larger air filtration devices, to contribute more funding to the Utility Relief Program currently in place to help residents pay for their electricity bills, and to support a forthcoming Home Hardening and Rehabilitation Program that will help homeowners make home improvements to prevent odors from penetrating their indoor living areas, according to a news release from Barger’s office. 

Strong odors originating from the landfill have been impacting surrounding communities for months. At Wednesday’s 75-minute meeting on the health risk study, held at College of the Canyons University Center, residents aired grievances that have built over the last year, as the landfill has garnered more than 7,000 complaints and 100 violations. The crowd briefly chanted “close it,” expressing frustrations with the county and the landfill.   

Residents continue to complain of health impacts, including headaches, nose bleeds, eye and throat irritation, and shortness of breath, among other issues, Barger’s release said. “The residents surrounding the landfill should not be expected to live with the odors that are impacting them every day without significant relief,” Barger wrote.  

A local spokesman for the landfill, when contacted Thursday with a request for comment on Barger’s letter, said the company is reviewing the letter and did not yet have an official response.  

“While a recently released independent report from the L.A. County Department of Public Health and data analyzed by landfill consultants concludes that there are no adverse long-term health risks to local residents, Chiquita continues to evaluate resident relocations and other recommendations as options to help provide odor relief for our neighbors,” according to a statement attributed to Chiquita Canyon Landfill on Thursday. “We are reviewing the recommendations made by Supervisor Barger and how they can be implemented as part of the overall strategy. We will have more to report on this and other mitigation updates at next week’s Community Advisory Committee meeting.” 

Speaking for the report from L.A. County Public Health, Adam Love of Roux Associates, the environmental firm contracted to look at health impacts from the landfill’s air, said Wednesday the six-week study his firm conducted should be considered a “preliminary assessment,” and called for more long-term testing. 

The landfill’s community advisory committee has been meeting monthly since August, and the public comments at those meetings have reflected growing frustration among residents, some of whom are openly expressing mistrust in the messaging from county officials. 

Sarah Olaguez, a Val Verde resident who’s also a named plaintiff in one of two lawsuits against Chiquita Canyon Landfill, said her initial response to Barger’s letter was accompanied by a feeling of doubt that the landfill would be held to account for its problems. 

“My comment is, ‘Finally,’ but this feels far too late. She should have made this request months ago,” said Olaguez. “I’m glad she finally made this statement, but it will most likely be months before anyone is actually relocated, if that. I have little to no faith in our government at this point.” 

The complaints surrounding the smell of leachate and landfill gases started to build in April of last year. The Signal reported Olaguez’s comments in August that living near the landfill has made her electric bills “insane,” and that she hadn’t been able to open her windows for about two months due to the landfill’s odors. 

A copy of Barger’s letter sent to Chiquita Canyon Landfill can be found at tinyurl.com/3rfdcchm. To view The Signal’s story on the Wednesday night meeting, go to tinyurl.com/3st9hhzf. 

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