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Public meeting Thursday night on Chiquita Canyon expansion

Posted: July 30, 2014 7:22 p.m.
Updated: July 30, 2014 7:22 p.m.
Val Verde residents Steve Howse, left, and Steven Lee, right, join a group of residents who live near the Chiquita Canyon Landfill. Signal photo by Dan Watson  Val Verde residents Steve Howse, left, and Steven Lee, right, join a group of residents who live near the Chiquita Canyon Landfill. Signal photo by Dan Watson 
Val Verde residents Steve Howse, left, and Steven Lee, right, join a group of residents who live near the Chiquita Canyon Landfill. Signal photo by Dan Watson 

A public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday night at the Castaic Sports Complex to discuss the Chiquita Canyon Landfill expansion that would double the daily disposal tonnage at the site from 6,000 to 12,000 tons and expand the landfill itself by some 143 acres.

The meeting will be a chance for the residents of Castaic, and Val Verde in particular, to voice their support or opposition to the expansion.

Many people in Castaic say they have few problems concerning the landfill or its planned expansion and say that the landfill has been a good neighbor.

A group of about 17 people from Val Verde, however, met with The Signal this week and said they can smell the landfill, particularly at night and in the morning, and said complaints about this have not been addressed by either the landfill or the Val Verde Community Advisory Committee that acts as a liaison between the community and the landfill.

“If you don’t see the sun, that’s when you’re smelling it,” said Steven Howse Tuesday night as he stood in front of his home that he has lived in since 1998. “It’s in the night and in the morning.”

He estimated that, on average, he can smell the landfill at some point four days out of seven in a typical week.

Val Verde resident Steven Lee lives a short distance away from the ridge line barrier that separates Val Verde from Chiquita Canyon. Despite that, he, too, says there are days where he can smell the landfill at his home.

“We’ve been complaining now for 16 years and they were like, ‘Oh, it doesn’t smell and nobody ever complains,’” said Brandi Howse. “We’re the ones close to it, we’re the ones taking the beating for it and it’s just like, ‘Oh, you don’t matter,’ so it was really frustrating.”

Greg Kimura, a resident who also represents the area on the Castaic Area Town Council, said he has heard frustration from some residents regarding how odor complaints are investigated.

“There are people that complain to us saying when the landfill representatives come out they say ‘That’s your neighbor’s trash can, that’s a dead animal, that’s your septic tank, it’s this flower that smells like that,’” he said.

When the landfill receives an odor complaint, administrators send out someone to investigate, according to landfill spokesman John Musella. Officials will also check their on-site wind monitors to determine the direction the breeze is blowing at the time of the call.

Additionally, landfill officials walk Val Verde to check for odors, he said.

“Since the release of the draft EIR (Environmental Impact Report) for Chiquita’s Master Plan Revision three weeks ago, there has been an increase in calls from Val Verde,” Musella said.

He said Chiquita Canyon takes safety very seriously.

“The trash from your home, from under your kitchen sink, comes to Chiquita and is disposed of safely,” he said.

Other residents
Despite concerns with the landfill’s operation, not everyone in Val Verde is gunning to shut it down.

“I don’t want to be a person who has the attitude of ‘not in my backyard,’ I get that it is a necessity in our lives, I’m OK with that,” said resident Abigail DeSesa.

“I just want them to respect our health and to respect our opinions and share with us a good flow of information so that I can take the right steps if my health is ever in jeopardy.”

The same goes for Steven Howse.

“If I could just get rid of the odor, I really like it here,” he said of his longtime home. “I think it’s a good place for my kids.”

Earlier this month, Vanessa Brookman, president of the board for the Val Verde Community Advisory Committee and resident of Val Verde since 2005, told The Signal she has personally not had any negative dealings with the landfill.

Before she joined the committee, Brookman said, she hardly ever heard complaints from others in the area about the landfill.

“For every complaint I hear about odor, there is a greater number of residents who will say they’ve never smelled the landfill,” she said.

Both Brookman and Castaic resident Flo Lawrence praised Chiquita Canyon. Lawrence said he supports the expansion, calling 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.”
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




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