Barger sends letter to Schiavo over Chiquita Canyon 

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger gives her address to the 325 attendees during the 13th Annual State of the County event at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Wednesday, 050422. Dan Watson?The Signal

L.A. County 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger sent a letter to Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth, dated Monday “to seek your immediate assistance with the ongoing issues at the Chiquita Canyon Landfill.” 

In the letter, Barger thanked Schiavo for her recent engagement on this issue and her work to ensure that “varying state agencies are doing their part to address this serious matter.”  

The letter specifically mentions the landfill’s leachate problems in the context of the State Water Resources Control Board’s role in regulation.  

“As we continue to press the operator of the landfill to abate and eliminate the ongoing odor incident impacting the surrounding community, which we both serve, county staff have made it clear that there are certain issues that fall outside of our authority to regulate,” Barger states in her letter. “Specifically, regulation of the handling, treatment and disposal of the leachate falls under the authority of a number of state agencies and special districts, including the state of California Regional Water Quality Control Board.” 

The landfill has garnered thousands of complaints over its air and water pollution over the past 10 months. Those complaints have been primarily investigated by the state’s South Coast Air Quality Management District.  

However, this past month, the landfill also received notices from the state Department of Toxic Substances Control and the federal Environmental Protection Agency over its pollution problems associated with leachate — which is rainwater that’s been filtered by rotting garbage and landfill gases. 

Due to an “elevated temperature landfill event” that has overwhelmed the facility’s containment system, leachate has been pumped out of the ground at a rate of hundreds of thousands of gallons a week. 

In February, the DTSC leveled five Class-I violations at the landfill, the most serious classification, after finding Chiquita to be illegally disposing of landfill leachate that contained toxic levels of benzene, a carcinogen — at a facility in Gardena that is not permitted to treat hazardous waste. 

The violations refer to a Dec. 27 incident, but the language states “on and/or before Dec. 27,” indicating the issue could have happened prior to the stated violation.  

Last week, Barger questioned county agency leaders on the viability of the county revoking the landfill’s conditional use permit. Barger characterized the response from county staff as saying unilateral action from the county “will certainly be legally challenged and will go nowhere,” in her statement. 

“Since the amount of leachate being generated is significantly greater than anticipated, my understanding is that the operator of the landfill is searching for solutions for appropriate disposal,” Barger wrote in her letter. “Given that the Los Angeles Regional (Water Quality Control) Board is responsible for permitting the handling and treatment of leachate, I would appreciate your assistance in ensuring that they are proactively monitoring, assessing, and ultimately regulating the landfill’s handling of this issue.” 

Schiavo said in a statement Monday that, as a former nurse, the health and safety of the community was her top priority, which is why for months, she has engaged with state agencies on this issue. Schiavo also said she reiterated her support for Barger in a letter sent Monday evening. 

“To date, we’ve joined Supervisor Barger for a briefing and press conference to update the public on this issue; regularly participate meetings of the Chiquita Canyon Landfill Community Advisory Committee; escalated concerns with state agencies including Department of Toxic Substances Control, CalRecycle, State Water Resources Control Board (which oversees the L.A. Regional Board), CalEPA, and South Coast Air Quality Management District; hosted meetings with individual constituents who have been impacted by Chiquita Canyon Landfill (as well as leadership from local town councils); attended the recent rally and press conference in the impacted Val Verde Community; and recently sent a community survey to gather information on the impacts faced by those in the area,” according to a statement shared by Furkan Yalcin, a spokesman for Schiavo. “I have also escalated this issue with legislative colleagues who chair the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials and the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.” 

The Regional Water Quality Control Board is already engaged on this issue and currently analyzing samples from the landfill, she added, and engaging with the operators of the landfill regarding a safe plan to return it to full compliance.  

“As has been the case since we first learned of the landfill’s impacts on the surrounding community,” she wrote, “I remain committed to a transparent process and sustainable solutions that allow for families to live healthy lives.” 
A representative for the landfill said Monday that landfill owner Waste Connections is “continuing to work cooperatively with all their regulatory authorities to solve the issues as quickly as possible.” 

The landfill recently agreed to a request from Barger that those residents affected receive relocation assistance while the issues are being addressed.  

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