Landfill responds to concerns about benefit fund 

A sign points to the entrance of Chiquita Canyon Landfill in Castaic. Dan Watson/ The Signal
A sign points to the entrance of Chiquita Canyon Landfill in Castaic. Dan Watson/ The Signal

An attorney for Waste Connections, which operates Chiquita Canyon Landfill, issued a statement Friday that indicated the company was updating the language on its website in response to concerns mentioned by residents over its community benefit fund. 

“In an effort to further clarify our community relief program, we are making updates to our website and the application form to make it abundantly clear that anyone who participates in the relief program is not waiving any claims they may have against Chiquita Canyon Landfill or related entities, and is not waiving any additional damages to which they may be entitled,” read a statement from John Perkey, Waste Connections vice president and legal counsel.  

“Chiquita specifically did not request a release and/or waiver of any legal claims that residents may otherwise have against Chiquita Canyon LLC in order to qualify for relief under the program,” he added. 

The South Coast Air Quality Management District has received thousands of complaints from nearby residents due to overwhelming smells that have impacted neighbors as far away as Stevenson Ranch and Valencia while the facility works to address its long-term problems. 

In February, L.A. County 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger called on the landfill to create a community assistance fund that included help for relocation and utility costs, which the landfill agreed to. 

Barger shared an announcement that constituted the website’s rollout Monday; however, residents raised a concern the next night about the program’s language during a monthly meeting of the landfill’s Community Advisory Committee, which included a discussion with Perkey.  

There are a number of lawsuits seeking damages against the landfill as a result of the health impacts that residents have attributed to the landfill’s problems with landfill gases, which result in a nauseating, sulphuric odor, and leachate, which is rainwater filtered through rotting garbage, which has a separate odor and also overwhelmed the landfill’s containment systems.  

During Tuesday’s meeting, Perkey replied that he couldn’t address any of the lawsuits pending against the landfill, a statement that apparently added to the confusion. 

The initial language on the website stated: 

“By submitting this form you understand that any compensation received through this program is intended to compensate you for damages or injury you are claiming you have suffered from any odors or fumes emanating from the Chiquita Landfill, including but not limited to adverse health effects (past, current, or future), impact(s) on use, enjoyment, and/or value of property, impact(s) on daily activities, and/or any other personal injuries or property damage you may claim to have suffered.”  

The new language on the form adds the following sentence to that portion of the application:  

“Submission of this form does not constitute a release of any legal claims you may have against Chiquita Canyon Landfill or any related entities and does not constitute a waiver of any additional damages to which you may be entitled.” 

Attorneys for one of the class-action groups suing the landfill called the initial response Tuesday  “a little bit shady,” because the information that residents share on the form can still be used against them at a later time by the landfill, and the language did appear to potentially affect their future claims. 

Perkey’s statement said the initial language was there for the sake of transparency on the nature of the program. 

“The language included in the claims form was necessary for complete transparency to participants as to the nature of the program, especially because we are not offering reimbursement of past expenditures and seeking receipts to confirm the same,” he wrote. “Our intention remains the same — to resolve the elevated temperature landfill event and any impacts experienced by the surrounding community as a result thereof.” 

On Friday, a representative from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office declined to share a timeline for the consideration of a request from Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth, who asked for a state-of-emergency declaration over the landfill’s problems. 

“Inspection and enforcement actions are ongoing; state, local and federal agencies are exploring all options to manage site conditions and protect the surrounding community and environment,” wrote Nefretiri Cooley, a spokeswoman for the California Environmental Protection Agency, in an email Thursday. 

The federal Environmental Protection Agency announced a community meeting for 6 p.m. March 21 at Castaic Middle School (28900 Hillcrest Parkway) in which it plans to address its actions against the landfill. The L.A. Regional Water Quality Control Board is also expected to attend to discuss concerns about leachate there. 

In recent weeks, both Barger and Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, have called on the landfill to close. 

A lawsuit seeking injunctive relief for residents in the form of immediate closure of the landfill is set for a court hearing April 12 in downtown Los Angeles.  

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