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August 5
1891 - Post office established at Saugus depot; renamed Surrey in 1906 [story]

Commentary by Leon Worden
| Friday, Aug 15, 2014

LeonWorden_columnmugSounds a bit like Godzilla vs. Mothra, doesn’t it?

Seriously, what’s the difference between the proposed Cemex gravel mine and the Chiquita Canyon Landfill, which now hopes to double its daily and weekly capacity?


One would level a mountain, potentially foul our air and water, and clog our highways with gravel trucks.

The other would fill a canyon with garbage; it currently fouls Val Verde’s air and potentially the groundwater (especially after the next earthquake), and clogs our highways with trash trucks.

I can’t decide which is worse: A sign on the east side of town that reads, “Welcome to Santa Clarita Valley: Home of the Giant Gravel Pit,” or a sign on the west side, “Welcome to Santa Clarita Valley: Home of the Giant Dump.”

Neither makes our valley prettier, or a nicer place to live, or makes us a healthier community, or raises our property values.

And neither would, or does, primarily serve the Santa Clarita Valley.

It’s true: A tiny fraction of the concrete aggregates produced by Cemex would go into our local roads and stucco homes. The vast majority would not.

A similar fraction – maybe as much as 20 percent, no more – of the garbage currently going into Chiquita is generated in the Santa Clarita Valley.

The vast majority is not. Fully 80 percent is trucked in right now from other parts of Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties (and elsewhere). We are literally the city of Santa Monica’s dumping ground.

If the dump expands its capacity and footprint, the percentage will only get worse.

The folks from the dump will tell you they’re regulated by a host of government agencies. Guess what? Cemex will tell you the same thing. Guess what else? In the last 30 years, several Santa Clarita Valley polluters that have been regulated by government agencies have been shut down by those same government agencies.

I’m tired of hearing the nonsense about doing our “fair share.”

They said we needed to do our fair share by hosting a gravel pit to serve the Western United States.

They said we needed to do our fair share by putting additional dumps in Elsmere and Towsley canyons.

They said we needed to do our fair share by ignoring the toxic soup under Bermite.

They said we needed to do our fair share by putting a toxic dump in the Santa Clara River bed in Sand Canyon. I’m serious. It was 1980. A toxic dump on top of our drinking water supply.

Let me tell you what “fair share” actually means. When talking trash, it means we take care of our own garbage rather than making somebody else do it. It does not mean bending over and letting the whole of Southern California dump on us.

The only tangible difference between Cemex and Chiquita is the fight.

With Cemex, the city of Santa Clarita has spent millions of taxpayer dollars to stop it, and every last agency in town with a public conscience opposes it.

Who’s fighting Chiquita? Well, nobody – except for the people who have to live near it.

I think there are two reasons for this. One, Val Verde is an isolated community. I’ll bet a lot of Santa Clarita Valley residents have never been there, and there are probably some who’ve never even heard of it. (It’s just west of Interstate 5.)

Two, there is a sentiment among those “in the know” that Val Verde sold out the last time Chiquita expanded in 1997.

With virtually no support from the wider Santa Clarita Valley, in 1997 a small group of Val Verde residents put up a valiant but fruitless fight to stop an expansion. In the end, the county compelled the landfill operator (then Laidlaw) and the property owner (Newhall Land) to make concessions.

The primary upshot was an agreement whereby Val Verde would receive money – $250,000 to start, increasing to about $350,000 this year – for “community benefits” such as after-school programs, sports and senior activities. In exchange, the opponents in Val Verde had to promise to shut up about the dump.

So with no political muscle behind it, lonely Val Verde was forced to cut a deal, and the rest of the Santa Clarita Valley went back to sleep – with the understanding the dump would close in 2019.

What bearing does the 1997 agreement have on the current plan to keep the dump open an additional “21 to 38 years,” as specified in the environmental documents? None.

Today, Val Verde residents see a broken promise.

The dump folks will tell you their current permit says “nothing prevents them” from seeking another expansion. Surprise. They pulled a fast one. The deal they cut with the Val Verde community just months earlier in 1997 says this: “The maximum total capacity of the landfill shall be 23 million tons. Landfill closure shall occur when this capacity is reached or by November 24, 2019, whichever occurs first.”

“Shall.” No ambiguity there. Anytime the dump folks deny promising the dump would close in 2019, they are lying. Period.

And now, a new deal appears to be in the works – only this time it involves a couple of the members of the Castaic Area Town Council who want in on the action. No joke. The dump knows it cannot buy Val Verde this time (fool me once…), so it’s trying to buy the Town Council that purports to represent Val Verde. (The Val Verde representatives on the Town Council, of course, are opposed.)

So what now? The Santa Clarita Valley is the sum of its parts. We are a healthy community only if each part of our community is healthy. We have a long history of fighting off monstrous bureaucracies and multinational corporations when one part of our community is threatened, be it a neighborhood in Canyon Country that overlooks a future gravel pit or the part of Newhall that’s next to an Elsmere dump – or the community of Val Verde.

United we stand, divided we fall. All of us must insist the county enforce the closure of the landfill in 2019, as promised, and work toward a solution where we’re handling our own trash and nobody else’s.

Further, we must expect and receive better from the specific Town Council and committee members who’ve trivialized and denigrated Val Verde residents’ wishes – or demand their ouster.

At the end of the day, we’re talking about a dump. A big, regional dump that primarily serves other parts of the Southland. It’s not something that makes our valley prettier, or nicer, or healthier, or raises our property values. It is a dump that we do not need, and there is no earthly reason for anybody who lives in our valley to support it.


Leon Worden is the volunteer president and CEO of SCVTV, a 501c3 nonprofit media company. His commentary reflects his own views and no one else’s – at least not intentionally.

Comment On This Story
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  1. Ana Notator says:

    Thanks so much for this article Leon, it is an apt comparison! I also wanted to let you know about our new website and facebook page that is working to address our problems with the landfill.

    and on Facebook:

    We are a group of individuals who are dedicated to upholding the safety of individuals (past, present, and future) impacted by the Chiquita Canyon Landfill. And this means more than just Val Verde!

  2. Steve Lee says:

    Beautifully written. Thank you for so much for listening to us here in Val Verde.

  3. Greg Kimura says:

    Very well said. The truth is the truth.

    Thank you for writing about the Chiquita Canyon Landfill Expansion and our battle with not one, but two giants.


  4. Susie Evans says:

    Mr. Worden, thank you for your comparison’s. Absolutely the truth. Godzilla vs. Mothra made me laugh at a very serious topic. You have stated everything we have been saying for a while.

  5. Thomas says:

    Thank you, Mr. Worden!

  6. Unbelieveable. We don’t need it, we don’t want it. Every community should take care of their own trash and be trash wise…no plastic bags, recycle everything, and compost. We’d all be a lot healthier without CEMEX and Chiquita. Thanks, Leon.

  7. Erica says:

    I can’t thank you enough Mr. Worden for writing this great article! So much is trying to just get shoved through…and it is an issue the whole SCV community will get impacted by. The expansion will be to the south and and the east where the ridge is the lowest and in the landfill presentation they even showed image of how you will be able to see a good 100 feet of the top of the expanded landfill. Nothing will separate the landfill from the Valencia Commerce Center, Post Office, Hasley Hills, SCVi, Live Oak, and the numerous restaurants and businesses currently operating there.

    Let’s not even get started on how much is projected to be developed on the south and southwest of the dump in the Newhall development. The landfill will literally be surrounded by residences and businesses. This will be disastrous on some many levels to so many lives.

    So really, thank you for shining a light on this situation when other news media outlets just re-word a press release for the expansion.

  8. Sara says:

    The figure of 20% of the trash is repeated, however, less than 10% of the refuse at the landfill originates from the SCV.

    (The SWIMS reports have an accounting of this. See page 27 of the below link)

    In addition, the landfill had 3.97 million tons remaining in their contract on December of 2012. At present, they are averaging an intake of 1.1 to 1.2 million tons per year. If you do the math, you can see that they are very close to reaching the 23 million ton limit.

    Here is a link to the tonnage report:

    • SCVNews.com says:

      Hi Sara! The 20 percent “at most” figure is merely intended to avoid making a misstatement. You’re right, it could be considerably less. But from the state of California’s “waste origin” report, it’s impossible to calculate the exact amount. That’s because the amount generated within the city of Santa Clarita that went into Chiquita in 2013 (132,297 tons of a total 1,029,327 tons, or 12.85 percent) is one figure; but then you have to add in the unincorporated SCV — and that figure is not given. Only the total for all of unincorporated Los Angeles County at Chiquita (63,881 tons) is given. But again, you’re right: If every single ton of unincorporated trash at Chiquita comes from the SCV, the combined total in 2013 (city+unincorporated) is 19.05 percent. The fact is, the Santa Clarita Valley generated somewhere between 12.85 percent and 19.05 percent of the trash that went into Chiquita in 2013. Perhaps instead of saying 20 percent “at most” we should say “less than 20 percent.”

      Here is the state report => http://www.scvhistory.com/scvhistory/ChiquitaSourceReport2013.pdf

  9. Brandi says:

    Thank you so much for writing this article. Honestly I am so emotional about this issue. We live here in Val Verde and feel so alone in our fight. I pray this article will bring the awareness we need. We already deal with the smells and the risks of living near the landfill. The risks and the smells will only be doubled with the expansion. Even though we have been screaming up until this point, we have been largely unheard and stepped on. I plead with the rest of the Santa Clarita valley to put yourselves in our shoes and help us fight our Godzilla.

  10. Stephanie Ebia says:

    Leon, I was so happy to have read your article and wish to thank you for making the SCV Community aware of this menace that is literally trying to degrade our valley and make Val Verde an unhealthy place to live. You are correct that there are people who feel they have a right to have some of the $$ Val Verde gets even though they don’t have to put up the smells and health issues. Val Verde is a poor community so the landfill is the big bully here and we need all the help we can get. Their broken promises and outright neglect to fix the odor issues is so morally wrong! I fear we don’t have a chance as they are already making a new entrance for the landfill. A new site would take 12 yrs. to complete (per DEIR) and I know they have not sought other sites. The County is out of $$ and therefore cannot/will buy another site. Thanks again for your great article.

  11. Another Val Verde resident chiming in to thank you for continuing to put this issue in the spotlight.

  12. Cam Noltemeyer says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write about this important issue. This Valley must demand that
    it be shut down.

  13. Jimvs says:

    I’ve read Cam’s efforts in the news for a long time, and I understand her point of view. But I cannot agree to shutting Chiquita down. I can agree, however to limiting it’s capacity and to focusing the facility on handling refuse from the SCV. I lived in the SFV for many years, and remember the days of hauling “stuff” to the dump in Sun Valley. It was exciting to go there as a kid; we could find all kinds of neat stuff to take home!

    The world has changed. It is not permitted to take discards from your neighbors once they are inside a refuse facility. Most importantly, EVERY city needs a dump, recycling facility, or transfer station simply due to our economy/lifestyle of obsolescence. We need Chiquita to keep the SCV from drowning in our “stuff” that we no longer need.

    Should we become a smarter and more forward thinking society we may outgrow the need for dumps. But I’m not betting on that in my life time.

    Keep Chiquita, but limit it to our valley. If necessary, the City of Santa Clarita should purchase Chiquita and keep it only for local use.

    Until such time as we no longer need it.

  14. Greg Kimura says:

    If Vanessa Brookman believes that I am for the DEIR and the landfill expansion, she is not hearing me. If she want’s to take quotes and twist them, so be it. I can hire an attorney myself if necessary.

  15. Susie Evans says:

    I am so glad you recorded the meeting. That means you have proof of the snide comment you made while I was speaking.

  16. Greg Kimura says:

    Who here would have a problem sending our trash to Riverside or Lancaster/Palmdale? If our trash rates rose 20%, would anyone worry.

    We would be trading this 20% increase for something valuable; the peace of mind of the people who are affected by the landfill.

    Even though I don’t smell the landfill from my house, it doesn’t mean that I am not breathing in particulate matter from the landfill.

    How upset would you be if there is a correlation between the health of residents in Val Verde and air pollution from the landfill?

    How upset would the Hasley Hills and Live Oak residents be? What if it’s no longer Val Verde’s problem, but it’s now getting pushed northeast toward those residences?

    Those who feel okay letting be Val Verde’s problem may need to think again; the landfill is headed your way and once the odors crest the ridge, there’s a clear path to Hasley Hills.

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