Schiavo calls for emergency declaration over Chiquita Canyon Landfill  

Protestors gather in support of shutting down Chiquita Canyon Landfill on Thursday at Hasley Canyon Park. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
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Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth, called on Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency Tuesday in the latest of a series of letters aimed at cleaning up the ongoing mess of smells and toxic chemicals coming from Chiquita Canyon Landfill. 

The Los Angeles County Public Health Department’s declaration of Chiquita Canyon Landfill as a public nuisance, along with elevated findings of benzene and carbon tetrachloride,  underscores the need for action, Schiavo wrote in the request. 

“We just feel like this is an urgent situation and we need all hands on deck to really address this crisis in our community that’s impacting public and environmental health,” Schiavo said in a phone interview Tuesday. 

“The request came about through just figuring out all of our options on the table at the Assembly level and wanted to make sure that we don’t leave any stone unturned,” she added. 

She said she’s been in contact with the governor’s office Tuesday but hadn’t heard back on the status of the request yet. 

“The communities of Val Verde and Castaic, as well as nearby schools, have endured prolonged exposure to noxious gases causing reported headaches, nausea, asthma, nose bleeds, heart palpitations, and more,” the letter states. “A community survey I conducted found that residents have missed work and school, had to evacuate their homes, nearly a quarter spending over $1,000 to address its impacts, and nearly all have had direct health impacts to themselves or a family member.” 

Schiavo noted the EPA’s recent declaration in her letter, but said the governor’s declaration is needed because “the situation is untenable for residents, and they need the full support of the state for emergency assistance for relocation and additional state action to mitigate its impact.” 

L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger announced a website published Monday by Chiquita Canyon Landfill in response to her request for relocation fees last month to help residents who are impacted by the landfill’s pollution problems. Chiquita Canyon Landfill officials are discussing the program and information at a Community Advisory Committee meeting 6 p.m. Tuesday.  

“We welcome the continued discussion with, and support from, all of our federal, state, regional and local regulatory authorities, as well as any additional resources from the state of California to deal with the elevated temperature landfill (ETLF) event,” according to a statement from Steve Cassulo, district manager for Chiquita Canyon Landfill. “Last month, Chiquita created an Incident Action Plan and team at the landfill to lead the on-site coordination of mitigation efforts. This team has been working closely with the EPA-led multiagency taskforce to bring about a swift resolution to the issue.” 

Barger and Schiavo have sent letters back and forth over the landfill crisis. 

Schiavo said she sent a letter to state agencies Feb. 22 following a community protest in Castaic.  

A frustrated Barger sent a letter to Schiavo on March 4 asking for her “immediate assistance,” which Schiavo said her office responded to that day.   

The worsening situation at the landfill since last February has drawn the attention of more state regulators. 

Late Monday evening, a State Water Boards official shared an explanation for its recent denial letter to the landfill regarding an application filed in 2022 to expand, as part of an expansion master plan from 2017.  

“On March 1, the L.A. Regional Water Quality Control Board denied a water quality certification application submitted by Chiquita Canyon LLC, on Jan. 4, 2022, related to the proposed expansion of its landfill operations,” according to the statement shared Monday evening by the Jackie Carpenter, media relations director for the State Water Resources Control Board. “The proposed expansion project is part of the 2017 Chiquita Canyon Landfill Master Plan to increase disposal capacity at the existing facility over a 30-year period.   

“The application was denied due to the fact that the Chiquita Canyon Landfill operators provided insufficient information for the board to evaluate whether an expansion would comply with the federal Clean Water Act and appropriate state-law water-quality requirements,” according to Steve Cassulo, district manager for Chiquita Canyon Landfill. “This insufficient information includes, but is not limited to, details to further assess potential impacts to surface water and groundwater linked to the current conditions and ongoing multi-agency response at Chiquita Canyon Landfill.” 

These ongoing problems, as well as challenges the county anticipates from the landfill, are why Barger has called on the state to help with its closure in recent weeks. 

Schiavo said she also is trying to put together an Assembly hearing in the district, which would be a unique opportunity for residents to express their concerns in front of state and federal officials, which the community deserves, Schiavo said. 

A date has not yet been set for that, but Schiavo said she was working on dates in the coming weeks. 

The L.A. County Department of Regional Planning is hosting the Community Advisory Committee meeting in person 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Castaic Library (27971 Sloan Canyon Road) and virtually here: bit.ly/43cXOKI.  

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