Standing in front of a large sign that read “Dump the Dump!”, about two dozen people held a rally in Valencia Monday to demand that Los Angeles County officials reject expansion plans by operators of the nearby Chiquita Canyon Landfill.
The afternoon protest was held in response to last week’s decision by the Los Angeles County Planning Commission to allow expansion of the now 639-acre landfill located in Castaic, not far from the small community of Val Verde. The landfill has been in continuous operation for more than 40 years and is owned and operated by Waste Connections, according to the company website.
Members of Santa Clarita Organization for Protecting the Environment, otherwise known as SCOPE, and other groups announced during the rally that they filed an appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision. They also stood in front of City Hall in Valencia to voice their concerns about health and environmental issues as a result of the landfill.
“With the approval of this expansion, Chiquita Canyon Landfill will become one of the largest in the United States, making the Santa Clarita Valley a dumping ground for much of the Southland’s trash,” said Lynne Plambeck, president of SCOPE. “The Commission’s vote failed to acknowledge these serious health issues facing our community as a result of their approval.”
Citing documents, members from the groups say the landfill, located on Highway 126 three miles west of Castaic, exceeded its limit last year. A 1997 agreement between the landfill and the community says the landfill shall close when it reaches its 23-ton capacity, or by November 2019, whichever comes first, according to the groups.
The new conditional-use permit would allow operators to run the landfill for up to 30 more years or until it reaches a limit of 60 million tons. But as part of the permit, landfill operators will have to raise fees on out of area trash. Waste Connections also plans to appeal the commission’s approval of the permit, based on that fee increase.
“If the Board of Supervisors approves the conditional-use permit without modification, the Company believes continued operation of the site likely to be economically unviable due to the proposed operational restrictions and significant fee increases,” according to a statement from the company.
But in their statement, the planning commissioners seemed pleased with the modifications made.
“Based on our evaluation, the proposed Chiquita Canyon Landfill expansion project would have a positive role in meeting the County’s long-term disposal needs provided it is conditioned as recommended in the Department of Regional Planning Staff Report,” according to the commission’s statement.
The dump operates close to Val Verde, a town once known as “the black Palm Springs,” because it served as a resort, swimming and picnic area for African-Americans once barred from public beaches and swimming pools. Today, there are about 2,500 people who live there and is roughly 60 percent Latino.
Barbara Wampole, a Val Verde resident since 1972, wore a face mask and carried a sign at the rally that read: “We live here. Don’t dump here.”
She said she was devastated when she heard that the commission had approved the permit.
“The landfill’s border would be about 800 feet from the edge of our town,” she said. The permit allows for wider versus heightened expansion, activists said.
The issue is expected to be presented to the Board of Supervisors in the next few months, said Edel Vizcarra, a planning and public works deputy for Supervisor Kathryn Barger. Her district includes the Santa Clarita Valley where the landfill is located.
“She understands there are concerns still with the landfill operating, but there’s also some support out there,” Vizcarra said. “She’s going to weigh those two factors and make a decision when it comes to the Board.”
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