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EPA orders immediate action at Chiquita Canyon Landfill to protect health and environment

EPA orders immediate action at Chiquita Canyon Landfill to protect health and environment
EPA orders immediate action at Chiquita Canyon Landfill to protect health and environment 02:45

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered Chiquita Canyon landfill operators Thursday to "take immediate steps to protect human health and the environment" at the solid waste Castaic site.

Last year, residents of the communities surrounding the 639-acre Chiquita Canyon Landfill filed nearly 7,000 complaints to the South Coast Air Quality Monitoring District about health impacts from the noxious odors and toxic runoff.

The complaints included eye irritation, respiratory symptoms, and skin issues.

SCAQMD consistently traced odors back to the landfill and the reaction area and ordered that the source of the pollutants be revealed, and monitoring is to be in place. Removing the pollutants or cleaning the air and soil was not addressed. 

Thursday's EPA order requires landfill operators to mitigate off-site community impacts and to contain and reduce the smoldering or reaction event occurring at the landfill.

"This order reflects EPA's commitment to ensuring landfill operators mitigate noxious odors and comply with federal law to prevent public exposure to hazardous wastes," said Martha Guzman, EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator. 

"Today's order is the result of local, state, and federal collaboration to better protect the health of nearby residents as well as the surrounding environment."

The agency further stated that the source of complaints is a sub-surface smoldering or elevated temperature reaction at the landfill that began in May 2022 and has grown in size and impact.

As of January 17, 2024, the reaction area was located approximately 1,000 feet from the nearest resident.

The EPA said leachate seeping from the reaction area contains elevated levels of benzene, a hazardous substance that can be airborne or contaminate water. According to the agency, leachate production increased from the sub-surface reaction, and landfill operators failed to properly manage it as hazardous waste -- not being properly treated, stored, or disposed of.

On November 30, 2023, local, state, and federal agencies formed a multi-agency critical action team to address the human health and environmental impacts caused by the deteriorating conditions at the Chiquita Canyon Landfill.

The order issued by EPA in coordination with the multi-agency team requires Chiquita Canyon LLC to comply with the law and properly manage treat, and dispose of hazardous waste and to take steps to mitigate the odors emanating from the landfill. 

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