Mike Garcia | Time to Halt Chiquita Landfill

Mike Garcia
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The fundamental function of our federal government is to guarantee the safety of its citizens. I’ve made ensuring that security, from your pocketbook to the southern border, my top priority in Congress. Now, I’m doing everything in my power to ensure the very public safety of our backyard.

The residents of Val Verde and Castaic have lived with the stench, fumes, and potentially toxic gases coming from the Chiquita Canyon Landfill for too long. The prolonged exposure to these conditions has been causing headaches, nosebleeds and nausea, but, unfortunately, state and local agencies haven’t been able to mitigate the issue.

I’m thankful for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recent involvement to address this crisis. Last month, the EPA issued an order requiring the landfill to take “immediate steps to protect human health and the environment …” The order then requires Chiquita to mitigate off-site community impacts caused by noxious odors and hazardous waste, and it labeled the landfill an “imminent and substantial endangerment to nearby communities.”

The EPA’s findings and subsequent order wasn’t a surprise to residents of these communities, though, who submitted more than 6,800 complaints last year. State and local agencies also submitted over 100 notices of violation to the Chiquita Canyon Landfill. In the meantime, inaction exacerbated the problem and the landfill is now producing 10 times its normal amount of leachate contaminated with benzene. This problem demands that state, local, and federal officials and agencies be proactive from here on out.

First, we need to mitigate the problem by temporarily ceasing operations at the landfill. My absolute priority is the safety and security of my constituents, and pausing operations is necessary to best ensure that safety. I’ve seen the situation firsthand and spoken to dozens of local residents, and this is their will.

That’s why I sent a bipartisan letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, co-signed by both federal and state officials, urging him to declare a state of emergency in Los Angeles County. This declaration would allow California to mobilize the state’s full set of resources and bring swift, much-needed relief to our constituents.

Second, we need to determine the root cause of the odor and emissions impacting our constituents and communities. The landfill’s operations must be paused to allow for unencumbered access by all federal and state agencies to investigate correctly and comprehensively. The emergency declaration and subsequent resources would be crucial to accomplishing this goal.

Finally, we need to hold the responsible parties accountable for any potential malpractice or malfeasance that caused this situation. This is an issue that’s impacting the very air we breathe and potentially the water we drink, and our communities deserve full accountability.

I won’t tolerate more excuses for inaction. There’s still more to learn about the situation, but this action plan is clear and necessary: Pause operations at the landfill and identify steps to immediately mitigate the problem, determine the root cause and impact on our residents and communities, and demand accountability from the responsible parties.  

You have my commitment: This issue has and will continue to get my full attention, and I’ll continue working with my peers at the local, state, and federal levels to best protect the 27th Congressional District’s health, neighborhoods and environment.

Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, represents the 27th Congressional District, which includes the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys. “Right Here, Right Now” appears Saturdays and rotates among local Republicans.

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