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Commentary by Leon Worden
| Tuesday, Aug 9, 2016

LeonWorden_columnmugChiquita Canyon Landfill takes in trash from all over Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties.

Less than 20 percent of the trash that goes into Chiquita is generated in the Santa Clarita Valley.

If Chiquita only took SCV trash, the landfill in its current configuration probably would have lasted our entire lifetime, and our children’s lifetime.

Nineteen years ago, the last time Chiquita wanted to expand, our community went through hell.

I remember. I was there.

Not just Val Verde, whose residents are the most directly impacted. The entire Santa Clarita Valley, since it meant dozens of trash trucks from all over the Southland would exacerbate our traffic problems and foul our air.

So the landfill owner at the time (Laidlaw) and the landfill property owner at the time (Newhall Land) – said fine. You stop fighting us, Val Verde, and we’ll shut ‘er down when the landfill hits 23 million tons or in November 2019, whichever is earlier. You can read the agreement [here].

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors said fine – we’ll issue a permit to the landfill on the condition it shuts down when it hits 23 million tons or in November 2019, whichever is earlier.

After 1997-98, when the supervisors put their seal on those “conditions of approval,” Laidlaw sold the business and Newhall Land sold the property.

They ain’t dumb.

The new owner is bound by those same conditions. It has to close and cover the landfill at 23 million tons or November 2019, whichever is earlier.

It’s like when you buy a house. If the city or county didn’t allow the previous homeowner to turn your house into a bordello, then you can’t turn it into a bordello, either. The change in ownership doesn’t change the conditions, and you knew that when you bought your house.

To be clear, I don’t have a particular opinion about the current landfill owner. It’s doing exactly what large corporations often do (Chiquita’s current owner trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol WCN) – they throw money around to local charities with one hand while using the other hand to pressure politicians into changing the rules.

And I’ve got no beef with the landfill’s local PR guy who says the new owner “never promised” to close at 23 million tons or in November 2019. It’s his job to say stuff like that, and he’s pretty good at his job.

Of course the new landfill owner “never promised.” It didn’t have to.

It’s the government that made the promise, via the conditions of approval. The new owner inherited those conditions when it bought the landfill. It doesn’t have to like them. But it knew about them, and it is stuck with them.

Now, the county will tell you that another condition of approval explicitly allowed the landfill owner, whoever that might be, to come back at a future date and request another expansion beyond the 23 million tons. And that’s true. It’s in there. They only  recently started talking about it. It was never mentioned before the current landfill operator applied for the latest expansion. For the better part of 19 years, the community – Val Verde and the rest of the Santa Clarita Valley – were led to believe – by the county and the various landfill and property owners – that it would shut down when it hit 23 million tons or November 2019, whichever is earlier.

Think about it. (Loudly:) The landfill must shut down at 23 million tons or November 2019 … but (sotto voce:) It doesn’t really have to. Shh. Don’t tell anybody.

The landfill hit 23 million tons about a month ago. Shut ‘er down.

It’s time for the rest of L.A., Orange and Ventura counties to take care of their own trash and quit dumping on us.

As for our own comparatively small amount of trash, there are enough brains in this town to figure it out. Load it onto trains and ship it to the Palmdale Landfill. Whatever. Find somebody who wants it. Believe you me, there are other landfill operators who want it.

Point is, a promise is a promise, a deal is a deal, and conditions of approval – especially the ones you trumpet to the community – are sacrosanct if there is integrity in government.

 

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.

 

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15 Comments

  1. Grace says:

    It could not be said better. Thank you, Mr. Worden.

  2. Susie Evans says:

    THANK YOU MR. WORDEN! fACTS ARE FACTS, LAWS ARE LAWS…they got caught and they are not suffering any of the consequences. If you break the law, you bet you are going to pay, but you are just a citizen, not a giant company. BTW PG&E was found guilty in the San Bruno explosion. Do we really have to suffer something that horrendous for big companies to be held responsible and accountable?

  3. Shane Weeks Shane Weeks says:

    From their Web site about their values. Notice it doesn’t mention the community. “Integrity. We define integrity as “saying what you will do and then doing it.” We keep our promises to our customers, our employees and our stockholders. Do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason.”

  4. Steve says:

    My email to zoning and the five County Representative today.

    Please make sure that this reply is forwarded to all 5 county supervisors.

    I would like the closing plans emailed to all concerned on this email list. I am worried since we were told by the Landfill representative that there were no closing plans and that the county never had any plans on closing the landfill, or they would have informed them. If that is the case than it does suggest cohersion between the landfill and the county, which imply’s that the expansion was a forgone conclusion for the landfill. I am assuming that since the landfill was so close to tonnage that closing papers are on file and were started in or by the year 2014 and completed when tonnage was reached. I would like this within the next 10 days. If they cannot be supplied because they were never drafted, than please feel free to take the next 60 days to comply and create and send closing plans. This time make sure that the Val Verde Community Advisory Committee and the VAl Verde Civic Association are included in all documents within 5 business days. Another violation of the Conditional Use Permit when they were not included in the supposedly Clean Hands Waiver signed on March 17th, but could not be produced to all involved until Yesterday.

    I would like this request to be included in the administrative record.

    Thank you for you expedient work on this matter.

    Sincerely,

    Steve Lee

  5. Michael Bunch says:

    Thank you Mr. Worden. I as a Val Verde resident am scratching my head as to why this landfill has not been closed. Does that mean that all California contracts are null and void, if CCL does not have to abide by the agreement with Val Verde? The last time I checked, contracts are binding legal documents in California.

  6. Steve says:

    Nicely written Leon.

  7. Ginger Mac Donald says:

    Great Job Leon, keep them to the contract. Move forward doing what has to be done.

  8. Dan OConnell says:

    Thanks for looking out for us, Leon.

  9. Maria Christopher says:

    Well said.. That would also put an end to the hazardous traffic conditions caused by the trucks entering and exiting the facility from Highway 126.

  10. Alan Ferdman says:

    Very well said Leon. Integrity in business and government is the number one issue here. The new owner bought the business knowing full well what their obligations are. What happens with this issue will provide the public insight into what to expect from our elected county officials in the future. I’m hoping they require the landfill owner to abide by the agreement. That will demonstrate we can trust what they say.

  11. Gene Uzawa Dorio, M.D. says:

    Thank you Leon for your stance on the Chiquita Landfill.

    Those involved in the Statement of Agreements and Understanding issued in 1997 had the foresight to recognize potential adverse problems with the continued enlargement of this dump site.

    Moving forward to 2016, as a Santa Clarita physician, the health problems associated with Chiquita are increasing. Not just from the massive number of trash trucks polluting our roads and airways, but also the methane coming from the site itself.

    Just recently, the local newspaper had a banner headline of increased ozone for our valley. Is this also related?

    It is time we respect the insight of those 19 years ago who put limits on the Chiquita Landfill. I agree with Leon Worden and ask the County to find an alternative, and shut it down.

    The people of Santa Clarita have sacrificed enough, and now it is effecting our health.

    Gene Uzawa Dorio, M.D.

  12. Julie Olsen says:

    Thank you, Leon. Well said.

    This is a very important issue. If the landfill doesn’t close and instead is granted their request to expand, it will become the largest operating landfill in the COUNTRY, right next to residential neighborhoods with schools, churches, and businesses. This is not good for our community and we should not be “dumped on”, as you said, when other more reasonable options are available for disposal of trash – 80% of which is from outside of our area.

    Thank you for speaking up and helping our community understand the facts of the situation.

  13. Steve says:

    Requesting Documents from Val Verde Community Advisory Committee.

    I am formally requesting the clean hands waiver from your board, and the dates that you received them. I am questioning if the Conditional use Permit was upheld and you received the documents within the 5 days stated it the CUP. I noticed on the email chain that Roselyn Waymanwas aware of such a document so for sure your board must have received the document by March 22nd 2016.

    I am also formally requesting the closing plans from the landfill, which also should be in your files. The landfill reached tonnage in June of 2016, so the process for closure plans should have started in 2014, no later then 2015, and a final copy should have been in your possession by June of 2016. If you do not have it then it suggest that the landfill and the county were never going to hold too the CUP. Please forward all documentation at your earliest convenience.

    Thank you for your expedient response into this matter.

    Steve Lee

  14. Kevan says:

    They have also taken highly toxic materials and sludge in violation of the contract with Val Verde, Materials other land fills refuse to take – Rocketdyne and toxic dirt from Malibu High school.

  15. Richard Hood says:

    This great article, along with your individual views, should be forwarded to all the supervisors via snail and email. Phone calls also.

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