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Commentary by Steve Lee
| Friday, Aug 12, 2016

steveleeI just got home from a meeting in Val Verde. The Val Verde Civic Association invited two special guests. The first guest was Geraldo Villalobos, chief environmental health specialist. The second was Edel Vizcarra, Supervisor Antonovich’s planning deputy. They were there to discuss why the Chiquita Canyon Landfill had not been shut down, and then to discuss the “clean hands” waiver – which allows the landfill to continue operating despite having reached its permitted capacity of 23 million tons.

The first speaker, Villalobos, brought the town up to speed on why his agency had not shut down the landfill. The reason they did not shut it down is because the permitted capacity is irrelevant to the state. They fly over landfills, and they care only about how much more garbage could be put in a landfill before it reaches a certain air space.

By their estimates, the landfill should be able to go for another 8 years. Then they would take steps to shut down the landfill.

Well, not exactly. They would then consider a new air space during the approval process of a new draft environmental impact report.

Then he used a visual image of a water bottle. You might think the example would show that when the bottle was full, they would shut it down. You would be wrong, because the garbage will settle, which would then increase the life of the landfill. Basically the state’s view is that Val Verde can take trash for years to come, and no ending date should really be put on it.

The next speaker was Vizcarra to explain the clean hands waiver. Most people in the audience were more concerned about why the county did not step in and enforce the conditional use permit. There were sections in the permit that said the county had to enforce agreements between all parties, and there were sections that allowed the county to ignore all such agreements. So basically it came down to the fact that the county can ignore the health and well-being of Val Verde.

One audience member asked: “Why are you here? You don’t care.” Of course he let them know he cared, and that was why he was there.

He did say one good thing. I do not think it was planned, but I think it was from the heated conversations going on. He said: Then sue the landfill, and this board needs to sue. I of course I’m paraphrasing, as I cannot remember the exact words. But the Civic Association took a vote to do just that, or at least to ask the community to allow it to take any action it deems appropriate.

Now, I want to face the real outcome that will happen. The county representative will say that he or she is against the expansion, or against the way it is written. The final vote from the five county supervisors will be a “yes” to expand it.

Four of the five have accepted political contributions from the landfill and friends of the landfill. The county will promise health surveys for the nearby residents. Just like 1997 and 2005, those promises will never come to be. People in Val Verde will get tired of complaining and will once again shut their windows and doors and pay higher electric bills to run air conditioners because to enjoy the natural air would be unhealthy, from the gases and chemicals carried with the smells.

This fight has been fought over and over. Sunshine Canyon Landfill was supposed to close, and at the last minute it was granted an expansion. Officials no longer listen to the people they represent; they can’t afford to. They listen to the money that either put them into office or that helps them stay in office.

“Interesting fact: They are seeking an expansion and extension at Chiquita Canyon from 6,000 tons a day to 12,000. They want to extend the life of that landfill until 2037. The proposed Sunshine Canyon Landfill order for abatement talks about cutting back on the amount of trash that Republic can take in from 12,000 to 6,000. Something smells fishy here, and I am wondering if they are planning on screwing over the people in Val Verde and the community around Chiquita Canyon, to make it seem like they are helping us here in Granada Hills and Sylmar. Extend their life and expand their facility, divert some of the trash from Sunshine to Chiquita, and everyone will think they are doing us (Granada Hills) a big favor. Even if they agree not to increase the amount of trash at Chiquita and say hey, we will only carry on as usual with the 6,000 tons but we have to operate here till 2037, it will still make it seem like they have thrown each of us a bone.”

Taken from an email sent to me earlier this week, chances are this person is right and we were never part of the equation. In the end, there will be another draft environmental impact report, and the county will pretend it cares. The people will speak about the injustice they have already endured, and the county will pretend it cares. People will cry, and the county will pretend it will stand up against the landfill.

In the end, the landfill will go on. The players think they can somehow change or influence the outcome, but the county and the landfill already know the outcome.


Steve Lee is a resident of Val Verde.

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  1. Richard Hood says:

    They are begging to be taken to court, but don’t believe Val Verde will do it. It may be the only option left for Val Verde, and depending on the judge you might succeed. It appears like impropriety due to the contributions – something elected officials are supposed to avoid even the appearance of.
    I would also be embarrassing Antonovich to the max – if he incapable of feeing any. It’s the opposite of being loved – and that, along with control, I feel is what politician’s motivation is. Let him know the entire community is angry and feels betrayed – by him. You guys have come so far, and are so smart – don’t give up now, follow through – you will always be glad you did.

  2. C.R. says:

    How can we get the name changed to “The Michael D. Antonovich Memorial Dump” as a thank you for this?

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