Val Verde residents file petition to shut down Chiquita Canyon Landfill  

Protestors gather in support of shutting down Chiquita Canyon Landfill on Thursday at Hasley Canyon Park. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Protestors gather in support of shutting down Chiquita Canyon Landfill on Thursday at Hasley Canyon Park. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
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Video by Habeba Mostafa/The Signal

Tim Williams is a longtime resident of Val Verde, having lived there since 1959.  

At a press conference on Thursday afternoon at Hasley Canyon Park, Williams said Val Verde has faced plenty of challenges in the 60 years he’s been living in the community, but nothing compares to the issues that have been stemming from the Chiquita Canyon Landfill.

“This right here takes the cake,” Williams said. “The landfill, it’s worse than anything we can even think of.”  

Williams was one of about 50 people who showed up for the official announcement of a petition for writ of mandate that was filed Thursday morning on behalf of the petitioners, Citizens for Chiquita Canyon Closure. The petition, filed against Los Angeles County, alleges that the county has failed to enforce the conditional use permit allowing the landfill to operate, thereby allowing the landfill to continue operations and causing “toxic landfill gasses to become a nuisance and serious health crisis in the surrounding community.”  

Protestors gather in support of shutting down Chiquita Canyon Landfill on Thursday at Hasley Canyon Park. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Protestors gather in support of shutting down Chiquita Canyon Landfill on Thursday at Hasley Canyon Park. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Oshea Orchid, an attorney with Sethi, Orchid & Miner, the law firm representing the petitioners, said at the press conference that the landfill needs to be shut down in order for remedial measures to take place.  

“It’s really important that we get more attention to this issue,” Orchid said. “For the community here, this has become a serious health crisis. The community has been reporting thousands of complaints, not just over the last year, but even this month alone, there’s been over 1,400 complaints, to date. There’s also been hundreds of notices of violation issued by various regulatory agencies.”  

According to the petition, the community is being exposed to toxic gases that include elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide and benzene. The petition references the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of symptoms for each chemical: hydrogen sulfide can cause irritation to the eyes and respiratory system as well as apnea, coma, convulsions, dizziness, headaches, weakness, irritability, insomnia and upset stomachs; and benzene, even in small amounts, can cause headaches, dizziness, drowsiness and nausea, while more serious exposure can cause sleepiness, stumbling, irregular heartbeats and fainting. The CDC added that long-term exposure to benzene can cause harmful effects to bone marrow, decrease in bone marrow and leukemia.  

Protestors gather in support of shutting down Chiquita Canyon Landfill on Thursday at Hasley Canyon Park. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Protestors gather in support of shutting down Chiquita Canyon Landfill on Thursday at Hasley Canyon Park. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Multiple community members told The Signal at the press conference that they have been experiencing similar symptoms.  

The petition goes on to state that the conditional use permit to operate the landfill, first approved in 1977 and extended multiple times thereafter, has been violated due to continued operation despite an inability to mitigate air quality concerns and greenhouse gas emissions.  

The county approved the latest conditional use permit in 2017, allowing the landfill to expand and operate for another 30 years, according to the petition, so long as “it would not adversely affect the health, peace, comfort, or welfare of persons residing or working in the surrounding area; would not be materially detrimental to the use, enjoyment, or valuation of property of other persons located in the vicinity of the Project Site; and would not jeopardize, endanger, or otherwise constitute a menace to the public health, safety, or general welfare.”  

Orchid said, based on what community members have told her, the landfill has not been able to uphold its end of the bargain to keep the surrounding communities safe.  

Present at the press conference were Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth, Valerie Bradford, president of the Santa Clarita Valley chapter of the NAACP, and Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, as well as a representative from 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s office. Barger’s district includes the SCV.  

Assemblymember Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth, reads a speech to the crowd of protestors during the Chiquita Canyon Landfill protest on Thursday at Hasley Canyon Park. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Assemblymember Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth, reads a speech to the crowd of protestors during the Chiquita Canyon Landfill protest on Thursday at Hasley Canyon Park. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Schiavo said she is “deeply concerned” with the violations that were reported by the state’s Department of Toxic Substance Control earlier this week. The DTSC identified five Class-I violations, including that the landfill illegally dumped toxic waste at a facility in Gardena.  

“The fact that DTSC identifies these violations as ‘the most serious, representing a significant threat to human health or safety or the environment’ brings this issue to a level of urgent crisis that must be met head-on and with immediate solutions,” Schiavo said. “We must focus on both the current impacts on daily lives of our residents as well as long-term impacts and solutions so residents get the support that they need now and in the future to ensure that this never happens again. 

“Our office remains committed to advocating for our constituents and ensuring that their voices are heard throughout this process, which is why we encourage anyone in the community who has been impacted to please reach out to our office,” Schiavo added. 

In response to the petition, Barger said in a phone interview with The Signal on Thursday that the county has been investigating the landfill and its compliance with county codes, but that she could not comment on the specific issues being raised. 

“The county has not had a chance to review it and so I can’t comment on the specific issues they’re raising, but I can say that the county has been investigating every single aspect of the landfill’s compliance with county codes and their conditional use permits to operate,” Barger said. “That has not changed, nor will it change. I issued a statement earlier today emphasizing the urgent and quick actions I’ve taken to address the community’s valid concerns. I’ve led the charge to demand accountability from the landfill operator and county and state agencies who have regulatory oversight over the landfill. That’s something that I think is lost.” 

Eileen, an 8-month-old beagle, who is part of a breed known for their strong sense of smell, shows her solidarity. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Eileen, an 8-month-old beagle, who is part of a breed known for their strong sense of smell, shows her solidarity. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Barger added that closing the landfill at this time is not something that the county can simply do, unless another agency, such as the State Water Resources Control Board, finds that groundwater has been contaminated to a level that would affect the surrounding communities. 

“We will take a look at the petition filed and we need to remind everyone that the bottom line is the county cannot unilaterally close the landfill without justification,” Barger said. “Our (legal) counsel has made that very clear to us, because the odors did not originate from active portions of the landfill and since the landfill operator is actively working to abate the odors, closing Chiquita landfill would have no effect on decreasing or eliminating the odors. Now having said that, if the water board state agency determines that there is some risk to the water table or something, they have the authority to do that. But that has not been the case, at least to my knowledge, to date.” 

In her statement, Barger said she has been working to help the Val Verde and Castaic communities, including calling for the landfill to help relocate affected residents earlier this month, but has yet to see the same from other agencies.  

“For months, my office has deployed all appropriate county resources to respond to this crisis and update the community on our findings through various forums on a regular basis,” the statement reads. “I have yet to see my state counterparts take similar actions to urgently address these issues.” 

Protestors gather in support of shutting down Chiquita Canyon Landfill on Thursday at Hasley Canyon Park. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Protestors gather in support of shutting down Chiquita Canyon Landfill on Thursday at Hasley Canyon Park. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

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