Residents question county Public Health report on Chiquita Canyon  

Adam Love of Roux Associates shared his firm's report on Chiquita Canyon Landfill on Wednesday at College of the Canyons in Valencia. Perry Smith
Adam Love of Roux Associates shared his firm's report on Chiquita Canyon Landfill on Wednesday at College of the Canyons in Valencia. Perry Smith

A consultant hired by L.A. County Public Health shared his firm’s report Wednesday on its study of air quality samples taken in and around Chiquita Canyon Landfill.  

The information on a six-week study between the end of October and the middle of December was shared with the community in a Wednesday evening meeting at College of the Canyons University Center. 

Adam Love, an environmental forensics expert with Roux Associates, echoed the sentiments shared during a January meeting of the South Coast Hearing Board of the Air Quality Management District: More information is needed to explain what’s really going on at the landfill. 

While the consultant said there were no “alarm bells” in the data, he also called his assessment preliminary. 

Similarly to the state air regulator, he called for more consistent and continuous air quality sampling, which require significant infrastructure, adding his firm conducted repeated studies on 24-hour samples of ambient air over the six-week period. 

Love essentially recommended terms that Chiquita Canyon Landfill agreed to last month during that hearing, which stated there’s more data needed to study the problem.  

A representative for Chiquita Canyon Landfill said Wednesday evening the facility expected to have the monitoring website it agreed to last month up and running within the next few weeks. 

Residents aired grievances that have built over the last year during the 75-minute meeting, as the landfill has garnered more than 7,000 complaints and 100 violations. The crowd briefly chanted “Close it” after one commenter, and several expressed frustrations with the county and the landfill, even as some thanked him for his speaking to the community.  

A root-cause analysis conducted last year indicated the landfill’s problems, which include landfill gases at 170 degrees and a smoldering subsurface reaction at temperatures of above 190 degrees, were being caused by a problematic older section of the landfill. 

That section of the landfill experienced decomposition and the release of gases at a rate that overwhelmed the landfill’s systems that normally would have captured smelly sulfuric landfill gases. As a result, the smells can be detected as far away as Lake Hughes Road to the north and Stevenson Ranch to the southeast. 

“We expect that the odors are causing real health effects to the community,” Love said Wednesday, acknowledging that dizziness and some of the other health problems that have been well-documented — and the subject of at least two lawsuits with hundreds of plaintiffs. “We’re not saying that there aren’t any effects,” he added. 

After a man who only identified himself as a Hasley Hills father of two questioned whether the timing and sampling was adequate, Love said the data should be considered as a “preliminary assessment.” 

Love said there were levels of benzene detected that he couldn’t quite explain based on the data he had, but the testing didn’t indicate levels that posed long-term health risks.  

“Continuous monitoring enables tracking of potential landfill gas emissions on an ongoing basis, (hydrogen sulfide) is not expected to result in long-term health concerns, except for temporary health effect from odor exposure,” according to an email statement attributed to Love, when asked if he could rule out any long-term health risks associated with the landfill’s problems without conducting the more rigorous monitoring and testing data he said was needed. 

Another resident, Abigal Desesa Ordway, who also sits on the Castaic Area Town Council, questioned whether one could really call the landfill’s impacts, which some have dealt with for the last year, “short term,” adding that “2023 was awful.” 

The $400,000 study only looked at landfill gas emissions and did not look at any impacts the landfill might have had on the local water table or any concerns regarding the leachate, which regulatory agencies only became aware of in October.  

When asked Wednesday if L.A. County Public Health was planning to study the additional problems for their potential health effects with respect to leachate, the officials reiterated the purpose of the study and noted that state and federal agencies are also working on the landfill’s problems. 

“The study looked at VOCs and sulfur compounds in the community air, which would include those that may be emitted from leachate at the landfill,” according to a statement attributed to L.A. County Department of Public Health. “Federal, state and county agencies are working together to continue the investigation into the leachate at the landfill.” 

The Environmental Protection Agency recently joined the task force that’s leading the investigation into the landfill. 

A representative for the federal regulator said the agency is still gathering information and has not taken any enforcement actions since joining the effort late last year. 

“We have issued a formal request for information from Chiquita Canyon Landfill, and we have performed multiple inspections,” according to a statement from Michael Brogan, press officer for the EPA’s Office of Public Affairs. “EPA continues to evaluate the evolving situation and coordinate with our partner agencies.”  

The landfill has said previously it expects the odor problems at Chiquita to continue for at least the next few months as it drills wells into the problem areas that are meant to lessen the problem in the long run by making its gas- and water-collection systems more effective. 

The day after the meeting, L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger sent a letter to the owners of Chiquita Canyon Landfill demanding that the company provide assistance to relocate neighbors afflicted by the odors. The story on Barger’s letter can be found here.

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