Santa Clarita Valley landfill eyes expansion
By Luke Money
Signal Staff Writer
July 21, 2014
The landfill that handles the bulk of the Santa Clarita Valley’s garbage is eyeing an expansion that would double the amount of trash it can take in a given day.
With the surrounding area continuing to grow, and a growing squeeze on trash capacity countywide, officials at Chiquita Canyon are moving forward with a master plan revision that includes doubling the permitted maximum daily disposal tonnage at the site from 6,000 to 12,000 tons, according to a draft Environmental Impact Report for the landfill’s Master Plan revision.
“A lot of people don’t like landfills, don’t think we need them,” said Mike Dean, division vice president for Waste Connections Inc., the parent company for Chiquita Canyon. “But they’re a fact of life and they’re going to be around for a while.”
Since 1972 the Chiquita Canyon Landfill, the largest and primary landfill in the Santa Clarita Valley, has occupied the same site off Highway 126.
Expanding the capacity at the landfill means expanding the landfill itself by some 143 acres — pushing its boundaries slightly south toward the existing entrance of the landfill and to the north and east.
This will bring the landfill up to 400 acres total, according to the draft EIR.
“We’re not expanding the property; we’re not acquiring any property; it’s within our current property boundaries,” Dean said.
The land owned by Chiquita Canyon is about 639 acres, and Dean said it’s under-utilized “because our current permit doesn’t let us maximize the amount of capacity of the site.”
He cited a lack of landfill space in Los Angeles County as one reason the expansion is needed. “A lot of the waste in L.A. County goes out of county,” he said.
The expansion proposal also calls for increasing the maximum allowable height of the landfill to 1,573 feet — an increase of 133 feet or so. But Chiquita Canyon officials say it will still be below the ridgeline that separates the landfill from nearby Val Verde.
At its ultimate height, though, the top of the landfill would be visible from the Hasley Hills neighborhood, which is located a few miles away in Castaic.
Depending on how fast the trash comes in, the proposed expansion would increase the life of the landfill by 21 to 38 years, according to the draft EIR.
Officials at Chiquita Canyon are also eyeing changes to the front entrance of the landfill.
There is currently no stoplight at the entrance to the landfill, meaning everyone wanting to go in or out needs to make a right turn or a left turn across traffic on Highway 126.
But the Master Plan revision would change that by reworking the front entrance so traffic instead makes use of the existing stoplight on Wolcott Way.
Additional landscaping will also be developed along the front to better shield the entrance to the landfill, according to landfill spokesman John Musella.
The Chiquita Canyon site is also home to a green energy operation where methane given off naturally while garbage decomposes in the landfill is harnessed to provide power.
Dean said that operation provides electricity to some 7,000 homes in the area, and that an expansion of the landfill could be accompanied by an expansion in that energy production.
In 1997, an agreement was brokered with the nearby community of Val Verde to set up a community benefit fund.
That fund pays out a sum of money every year that is used for a variety of efforts, including to fund scholarships and senior assistance programs and to help fund the Sheriff’s Department Youth Activities League in Val Verde, according to Vanessa Brookman, president of the board for the Val Verde Community Advisory Committee.
“So the funds are really put to good use,” Brookman said.
Musella estimated this year’s allotment to be about $340,000.
“This time around we’re looking at doing a larger community benefits program,” he said. “But we’ll also include Castaic, so money will continue to flow into the Val Verde into their community benefits fund and there will be a community benefits fund set up in Castaic as well.”
A petition placed online at Change.org urged the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Department to “stop the expansion of the Chiquita Canyon Landfill.”
“Please help us preserve the health, safety, environment and property values of our historic town and sign our petition,” the petition reads. “Tell Chiquita Canyon and the Los Angeles (County) Department of Regional Planning that expansion is not a desired solution to the residents of Hasley Hills and surrounding communities.”
The petition, which is currently closed and has 26 signatures, criticizes the fact that the top of the landfill will be visible from Hasley Hills and states some residents in that community claim they can smell the landfill from their homes.
“In this past year, since the announcement of the intent to expand, there has been an increase in calls and complaints to the (Community Advisory Committee) from a certain few Val Verde residents who seem to want the landfill to close and not to expand,” Brookman said. “They are a small percentage of residents, and I think that’s to be expected.”
Brookman has lived in Val Verde since 2005 and said she has personally not had any negative dealings with the landfill. Before she joined the Community Advisory Committee, Brookman said, she hardly ever heard complaints from others in the area about the landfill.
“Every once in a while someone would mention the dangers of the trash haulers pulling out onto the eastbound 126 without the benefit of a controlled intersection, but that is being addressed with the relocation of the entrance,” she said.
“For every complaint I hear about odor, there is a greater number of residents who will say they’ve never smelled the landfill.”
Both Brookman and Castaic resident Flo Lawrence praised Chiquita Canyon. Lawrence says he supports the expansion and called the landfill “an amazing neighbor.”
“L.A. County needs someplace to put its garbage — it’s unavoidable, period,” he said. “We might as well put it where they’re paying attention and doing it right.”