Becki Robb | All Hands Needed on Chiquita

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

A community’s waste and recycling are very much an out of sight, out of mind issue and it’s easy to take it for granted when the reality is it requires a sophisticated network of collection, disposal and management.

As business owners, the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce recognizes that businesses depend on a well-maintained and functioning waste disposal system for our small businesses, restaurants, gyms, nonprofit organizations, and the list goes on. We all produce trash, and it needs to be disposed of responsibly.

Recently, there have been numerous headlines about the efforts being undertaken by our community’s landfill operator, Chiquita Canyon Landfill. They are currently dealing with what is called an elevated temperature landfill event. This is something that Chiquita has described as a, “chemical reaction occurring deep within an old portion of the landfill, which has resulted in elevated temperatures and increased generation of landfill gas and leachate (liquids produced by a landfill).” These events have directly impacted many in the community, and we believe a factual, action-oriented and solutions-based discussion is vitally important at this time.

Many residents likely did not know much about Chiquita prior to the latest headlines. Over the course of the last 50 years, the landfill has invested in environmental protections to prevent impacts on the nearby soil, groundwater and air quality. These are important investments that we as a community must continue to demand from our partners, like Chiquita.

The ongoing issue at the landfill has greatly impacted the neighborhoods closest to Chiquita. We are encouraged by Chiquita’s willingness to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, CalRecycle, South Coast Air Quality Management District and numerous other regulatory agencies to find the best path forward for the community. Full cooperation and an all-hands-on-deck approach are what we should expect as a community, and we believe the landfill’s transparency and action-oriented, rapid response approach are the right ones.

Some in the community are now calling for the closure or pause of current landfill operations.

Closing the landfill is not a solution to the problem at hand. In fact, the EPA confirmed at their (recent) community meeting that the current operations at the landfill are not related to or near the reaction area and that ceasing operations would likely result in a slower response to fixing the landfill reaction. Closing the landfill will result in increased costs for our business community and residents, which will cause more harm to our entire community.

Chiquita Canyon has been a strong partner in our community for decades. We were pleased to hear that Chiquita had agreed to step up and fund temporary relocations, home hardening and increased utility bills as part of their new Chiquita Landfill Community Relief program. This program directly answers the calls of residents to relocate or improve air quality in their homes nearest the landfill.

We are disheartened, however, to see some members of the community attacking this program as a maneuver to side-step potential legal liabilities when Chiquita has clearly stated 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.”

We urge all of our elected leaders to follow the example set by L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and work cooperatively with the operator to facilitate solutions and expedite government bureaucracy from slowing the process. There is plenty the government can do to help the situation, especially with a cooperative operator who has done everything the regulators have asked of them.

The bottom line is we have a local business operating the landfill who has taken responsibility for a problem they inherited and are sparing no expense on solving the issue. We’re not sure another operator would be working as expeditiously and cooperatively as Chiquita Canyon has been. But we are sure of their commitment to this community and that they are working together with regulators to bring this issue under control.

Becki Robb

Chair, SCV Chamber Board of Directors

Santa Clarita

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