Water board hits landfill with another violation 

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
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The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board has found Chiquita Canyon Landfill in violation of 11 terms of the 2010 stormwater-discharge permit the facility is operating under, which are related to the ongoing leachate problems at the landfill. 

The latest violations are connected to allegations that Chiquita Canyon continually failed to employ “best management practices” in containing the facility’s leachate, a toxic blend that results from stormwater being filtered through rotting garbage and landfill gases. 

Leachate occurs as a regular occurrence at every landfill, but the massive amount of leachate being produced at the landfill, which is estimated at close to 1 million gallons a month, has caused a crisis at the facility impacting the community. 

The sheer volume of the leachate, which has tested positive for toxic levels of benzene in shipments that Chiquita tried to dispose of illegally, has resulted in more than 10,000 complaints due to its smells. 

The letter dated Thursday states that, during inspections, water officials reported evidence from Jan. 29 that “leachate migrated into the concrete-lined drainage channel, comingled with stormwater runoff, which flowed into the stormwater basin,” which discharges into the Santa Clara River. 

The letter indicates it also happened Dec. 22, and again in February.  

“During the week of Feb. 4 and Feb. 19, 2024, heavy rainstorm events occurred at Chiquita Canyon Landfill” and also led to a comingling of leachate with the stormwater runoff, according to the state regulator. 

“Effective (best management practices) have not been implemented at the leachate seepage and collection area to ensure leachate containment and prevention of its migration into the storm channel and stormwater basin,” according to the letter to Chiquita. 

Water officials also found the landfill was not doing an adequate job of managing the check dams it had created to prevent leachate seepage. 

“There is inadequate landfill slope stabilization: erosion and rills, broken sandbags in slope check dams, and collapsed silt fences were observed on landfill slopes,” according to the state. 

The landfill is being ordered to respond by April 29 with a plan and photo evidence of its measures to address the issues, or it could face fines of $10,000 each day plus $10 per gallon discharged, “pursuant to California Water Code (Water Code) section 13385,” per the letter. 

The landfill has repeatedly said it welcomes support from regulators in addressing its issues, which the facility has said it’s trying to do as quickly as possible.  

State and federal officials speaking at a community meeting last week in Castaic have so far declined to explore closing the landfill, stating that could only delay Waste Connections’ response time in dealing with its active problems at the facility.  

In terms of impact to the water supply, a Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board official said recently the agency has not yet found any impacts on the groundwater, but the agency also issued an order last week calling for additional monitoring wells for the water between the south of the facility and the Santa Clara River. 

According to an email from Kevin Strauss, spokesman for the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency, “Benzene has not been detected in drinking water wells in the vicinity of the landfill, with the most recent testing completed Feb. 29, 2024.  

“SCV Water monitors its drinking water wells for volatile organic compounds, including benzene,” he added. 

There appears to still be lingering discussion of a state of emergency declaration for Chiquita Canyon Landfill, which state officials indicated last week might not be necessary.  

Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, doubled down on the call during a recent joint community meeting of local, state and federal agencies working to address the landfill’s problems. 

In response to a request for comment Thursday, a spokesman for Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth, referred questions to the governor’s office. 

An official with the California Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged the media request late Thursday afternoon but was not able to respond immediately with a statement. 

L.A. County 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the SCV, has consistently said a state of emergency is not needed to address the problems with Chiquita at the state or local level. 

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