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LA DAILY NEWS: Fed up with more trash, smell, gas, residents demand LA dump shut down

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Fed up with more trash, smell, gas, residents demand LA dump shut down

Several groups and individuals will deliver a letter to the Offices of Supervisor Michael Antonovich asking that the County of Los Angeles, as the Local Enforcement Agency, close Chiquita Canyon Landfill (CCL) due to recent evidence that it has exceeded its permitted fill tonnage and has been operating outside its permitted capacity limit since June of this year.  (Photo by Dean Musgrove/Los Angeles Daily News)
Several groups and individuals will deliver a letter to the Offices of Supervisor Michael Antonovich asking that the County of Los Angeles, as the Local Enforcement Agency, close Chiquita Canyon Landfill (CCL) due to recent evidence that it has exceeded its permitted fill tonnage and has been operating outside its permitted capacity limit since June of this year. (Photo by Dean Musgrove/Los Angeles Daily News)

Nearly two decades ago, the operator of a garbage dump near the village of Val Verde promised the landfill would close by 2019, or when the trash pile hit a certain limit.

Now environmental groups and residents say the Chiquita Canyon Landfill, located less than a mile south of the unincorporated town northwest of Santa Clarita, has exceeded its permitted 23 million-ton maximum. And they are demanding Los Angeles County close the dump.

“This community and the entire Santa Clarita Valley deserve the safeguards that are supposed to be afforded to all residents by county oversight processes,” said Lynne Plambeck, president of Santa Clarita Organization for Protecting the Environment, otherwise known as SCOPE. “Why aren’t tonnage limits for this landfill being monitored and regulations enforced as they would be in other communities through Los Angeles County?

“This is like the fox guarding the henhouse, with the county making money on the dump.”

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Activists from SCOPE joined Friends of Citizens for Chiquita Canyon Landfill Compliance and some Val Verde residents this week to protest outside the office of county Supervisor Michael Antonovich in Santa Clarita. Their demand: immediate closure of the landfill in lieu of a proposed expansion that could double the size of the dump.

An Aug. 4 letter by environmental groups to the supervisor also calls upon the county to enforce its conditional use permit for the Chiquita Canyon Landfill, which is limited to 23 million tons.

They say the 257-acre landfill, located on Highway 126 three miles west of Castaic, exceeded the limit last June, citing landfill reports. They point to a 1997 permit that says the landfill shall close when it reaches its 23-ton capacity, or by November 2019, whichever comes first.

They also say a contractual agreement made by the landfill’s former owner and the town now populated by 2,550 residents said the expansion made 19 years ago would be its last.

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Val Verde, once known as the “the black Palm Springs,” had once served as a resort, swimming and picnic area for African-Americans once barred from public beaches and swimming pools. Today, it is roughly 60 percent Latino.

Waste Connections, which owns the 40-year-old Chiquita Canyon Landfill, has proposed nearly doubling its landfill size to 400 acres, with the pile of garbage growing by 140 feet. It also hopes to double its daily and weekly intake, from 6,000 to 12,000 tons per day and from 30,000 to 60,000 tons per week, through 2037.

Its expansion application is now in the environmental impact study phase, pending air quality and traffic reports, county officials say. A hearing with the county Planning Commission – or pending an appeal, the Board of Supervisors – is expected early next year.

Until then, the Castaic-based company has obtained a “clean hands waiver,” allowing it to operate Chiquita Canyon until a new conditional-use permit application to expand is decided.

Antonovich, meanwhile, has taken a wait-and-see approach pending the final draft EIR – but is not supportive of a major dump expansion, officials said.

“The supervisor isn’t supportive of doubling the current size of the landfill, as proposed,” said Edel Vizcarra, planning and public works deputy for Antonovich. “He doesn’t want it to become a regional landfill.

“If you expand this thing to the size of Sunshine Canyon (Landfill in Sylmar), they’ll have trash from everywhere. We don’t want this to be a landfill for Los Angeles city. We want it to serve as a resource for the Santa Clarita Valley.”

Critics now say only a small percentage of the garbage comes from Santa Clarita, saying much of the waste is now trucked in from such cities as Burbank, Inglewood, Redondo Beach, Beverly Hills and El Segundo, as well as the San Fernando Valley and Ventura County.

Val Verde residents have complained of headaches and nausea they attribute to landfill odors and methane gas. Similar odor complaints have been made about Sunshine Canyon, which faces a second nuisance abatement order from air regulators.

Plambeck, of SCOPE, said the county received 10 percent of the Chiquita Canyon Landfill tipping fees, which came to roughly $8 million a year.

Last year, environmental activists submitted a civil rights complaint that residents of the mostly Latino community did not get notices or public meetings in Spanish regarding proposed expansion. The complaint filed with the county remains unresolved.

“The County knew people were already sick from the landfill. It needs to be shut down so we can be sure our kids grow in a healthy and safe environment,” said Noe Rico, of Val Verde, who has two young children, in a statement.

“The County needs to be standing up for us … not throwing us in the garbage pile.”

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