LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the continued operation and expansion of the Chiquita Canyon Landfill in Castaic, despite environmental concerns raised by area residents.
In a letter to the board, the Department of Regional Planning acknowledged that impacts to air quality and greenhouse gas emissions from the county’s second-largest landfill could potentially be significant, but that the site is needed to manage the region’s trash for the next 15 years.
“Without the project, the bulk of CCL’s current customers would be forced to find an alternative disposal site outside of Los Angeles County because in-county disposal and diversion options are severely limited due to the closure of Puente Hills Landfill and current permitting restrictions for other in-county landfills,” according to Regional Planning Director Richard Bruckner. “The hauling of waste to more distant landfills would increase truck traffic and emissions.”
Several residents of nearby Val Verde cried foul, pointing to an agreement struck in 1997 that required the landfill to be closed when it reached 23 million tons of garbage or by Nov. 24, 2019, whichever came first.
“A promise is a promise,” resident Theresa Brady told the board.
The landfill reached the 23 million ton limit last year and has been operating under a temporary waiver.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger said that agreement was never documented as part of the county conditional use permit for the site.
The Chiquita Canyon Landfill serves 21 of 88 cities countywide, according to Mike Dean of Waste Connections Inc., the general manager of the landfill. The city of Los Angeles uses 55 percent of current capacity and Santa Clarita uses 13 percent.
“The trash has to go somewhere … it doesn’t just disappear,” Dean said.
Critics charge that trash dumped in the landfill comes from outside the county, but regional planners said non-county trash amounts to just 2 percent of the total.
Both sides accused one another of lying about everything from whether or not environmental testing had been done to the incidence of cancer in communities around the landfill.
Barbara Myler, who identified herself as a cancer patient, said there was no evidence of cancer clusters and others were using false claims to scare people.
Faye Snyder of the Val Verde Community Advisory Committee cited an example of a young girl who had died of leukemia a month ago and countered that “being told that we’re making stuff up is really upsetting to me.”
While residents complained about smells from the landfill and the effect of emissions on air and water quality, business representatives praised the landfill operator and worried that high fees would make the landfill untenable.
Shannon Griego, president of Global Transloading, said she was speaking on behalf of 1,000 truckers hauling construction debris and other materials to the dump.
“We need extended operating hours to meet the contract demands for Metro, the city of Los Angeles and the county of Los Angeles because we have to work around traffic congestion,” Griego said. “We have to have a landfill that’s competitive.”
Barger called for more than a dozen revisions to the conditional use permit as drafted, saying she hoped to strike a balance between the needs of the community, the operator and the region as a whole.
“I take these concerns very seriously,” Barger said of concerns raised about air and water quality and public health.
Changes included setting an annual tonnage limit of 2.8 million tons for the first seven years of the permit, dropping down to 1.8 million tons after that. Barger also asked that the hours of operation be set from 3 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
The operator will also be required to hire a consultant to conduct continuous air monitoring and to publish the results of water quality monitoring online.
Barger said she hoped the data would allow everyone to “agree on a common set of facts.”
She pointed to the county’s work to clean up soil contamination around the now-closed Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon as a model for working with the community.
It may be up to 30 years before the Chiquita Canyon Landfill is shut down and converted into a park, according to the terms of the permit. Barger promised that this would be the last permit issued for the landfill, constituting its “final chapter” that would allow for “the winding down of its operation over the next few decades.”