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EPA claims Chiquita Canyon Landfill violated federal Clean Air Act

Chiquita Canyon issued EPA violation for toxic gases
Chiquita Canyon issued EPA violation for toxic gases 02:35

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a violation to the controversial Chiquita Canyon Landfill and its operators for failing to contain toxic chemicals. 

In the notice issued on June 4, federal regulators said the landfill operators, Waste Connections, violated the Clean Air Act and their operating permit by emitting excessive toxic gases, including benzene, hydrogen sulfide and other chemicals that can damage lungs.

"I think now that we have the violations in our hand I think the community can push the regulators to do something and push the operator of the landfill to make the decisions to either abate the problems, if they can, or shut the landfill down," resident Mark Andes said. 

For years, residents of neighborhoods surrounding the dump have issued thousands of complaints about the 639-acre landfill. The South Coast Air Quality Management District said it had received nearly 10,000 complaints in 2024, many of which mention a foul smell described as rotten, putrid and stomach-churning. Neighbors also believe the landfill has affected their health, causing headaches, skin irritation and even heart palpitations. 

One of the chemicals that regulators detected, hydrogen sulfide, can cause irritation, headaches, nausea and respiratory stress. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention described the smell of the colorless gas as "a strong odor of rotten eggs." In the report, EPA inspectors said the hydrogen sulfide significantly contributed to the diminishing quality of life for neighbors.

The EPA said Chiquita Canyon operators have ten days to respond to the notice. 

"We are actively evaluating the findings from the EPA and are working cooperatively with them and our regulators to address any outstanding issues," the operators of the landfill said in a statement. "Following guidance from our regulators and experts, Chiquita Canyon has been actively engaged in a focused and intensive effort to address the elevated temperature landfill event."  

During a meeting on Tuesday, representatives from the landfill said they are trying to fix the problem. 

"It's their fault. It's their dump. Putting a plastic seal on top, they're saying, is gonna take care of it all, I don't know," resident Aran Dokovna said.

Earlier in 2024, an independent study found that the odors emitting from Chiquita Canyon caused "short-term health effects" shortly before residents started filing lawsuits against the operators.

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