Chiquita Canyon Landfill Response

Ongoing Response at Chiquita Canyon Landfill

An aerial view of Chiquita Canyon Landfill.

An aerial view of Chiquita Canyon Landfill.

Chiquita Canyon Landfill is a 639-acre municipal solid waste landfill in Los Angeles County that is operated by Chiquita Canyon, LLC (CCL) and has served the county since 1972. 

Since approximately May 2022, the site has been experiencing an exothermic chemical reaction deep within an inactive portion of the landfill, which has since grown in size and impact. This reaction is causing several issues for nearby residents, including noxious odors emanating offsite that have generated thousands of complaints. The reaction is also producing additional quantities of liquids in the waste – called leachate – that must be pumped out of the reaction area. This leachate has been found to contain high levels of benzene, a dangerous chemical that can harm the public health and environment. To avoid such harm, the leachate must be managed as a hazardous waste. 

Local, state, and federal agencies have been collaborating to address concerns about the operations and overall state of the landfill and have issued over 100 notices of violation to CCL.  

In November 2023, local, state, and federal agencies formed a Multi-Agency Critical Action Team (MCAT), led by U.S. EPA, to coordinate investigations and enforcement efforts and to ensure compliance with laws protecting public health and the environment. In addition to U.S. EPA, the task force includes the following agencies: California Environmental Protection Agency and four of its entities, CalRecycle, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the California Air Resources Board; the South Coast Air Quality Management District; and the Los Angeles County Departments of Public Works, Public Health and Planning. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Solid Waste Management Program, is certified to act as the Local Enforcement Agency (LEA) by CalRecycle. This expansive coordination has resulted in several important action orders, including an order for abatement issued by the South Coast AQMD Hearing Board to address odor issues and a Unilateral Administrative Order issued by U.S. EPA requiring CCL 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. 

In March 2024, the County, CalEPA, and U.S. EPA agreed to shift coordination into a new phase and created a Response Multi-Agency Coordination (R-MAC) Group composed of federal, state and local on-scene coordinators to interface with CCL and its incident management team. The R-MAC will enhance coordination on the ground and better leverage the collective expertise and legal authorities across all local, state, and federal agencies. The R-MAC’s initial objectives (subject to modification as conditions evolve) include: establishing additional source, perimeter and community air monitoring; characterizing and managing leachate production, storage, treatment, and disposal; ensuring the stability of the impacted landfill cells and monitor changes in surface conditions; ensuring the community and stakeholders remain informed. CCL has been cooperating fully with the R-MAC group and this structure will allow for quicker, more aggressive action.

Please find more information in the sections below. 

Roles and actions of CalEPA entities

CalEPA is the umbrella agency to six boards, departments, and offices (BDOs) that are charged with restoring, protecting and enhancing the environment to ensure public health, environmental quality, and economic vitality. Five of those BDOs play a role in regulating the Chiquita Canyon Landfill: the California Air Resources Board, CalRecycle, the Department of Toxic Substances Control, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (which is part of the State Water Resources Control Board and nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards), and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. CalEPA helps ensure enforcement and compliance activities are consistent, effective and coordinated, including through its participation in the multi-agency critical action team. CalEPA has also dedicated an on-scene coordinator to the R-MAC group and is actively engaged with efforts to establish and achieve objectives at the site. Five of CalEPA’s boards, departments and offices are participating in the R-MAC group.

California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

Role 

Non-hazardous waste solid waste facilities throughout California are regulated by CalRecycle-certified waste Local Enforcement Agencies (LEAs). The Chiquita Canyon Landfill is regulated by the Los Angeles County Public Health Department.  CalRecycle monitors the LEA’s performance and provides technical and enforcement guidance and support to LEAs and other agencies that regulate these facilities, including the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board and the South Coast Air Quality Management District. 

CalRecycle is responsible for certifying local jurisdictions to act as the EA (a Local Enforcement Agency, or LEA), allowing local jurisdictions to retain control over local solid waste matters. However, in jurisdictions where CalRecycle has not certified an LEA, CalRecycle acts as the EA. With few exceptions, where there is a certified LEA, CalRecycle does not have authority to bring direct enforcement action against a SWF. That authority rests with the LEA.

Key Actions

  • Landfill Gas Monitoring and Control, and Site Maintenance Violations
    • The Los Angeles County Public Health Department (CCL’s LEA) has issued violations to Chiquita Canyon Landfill for non-compliance with the following requirements:
      • Title 27, California Code of Regulations, Section 20921 – Gas Monitoring and Control  
      • Title 27, California Code of Regulations, Section 20750 – Site Maintenance 
  • Notice of Intent to Include the Chiquita Canyon Landfill on the Inventory of Facilities that Violate State Minimum Standards
    • On February 28, 2024, CalRecycle sent a notice to the operator of the Chiquita Canyon Landfill that the facility would be placed in the Inventory of Solid Waste Facilities Which Violate State Minimum Standards (Inventory) if the following violations were not corrected within 90 days:
      • Title 27, California Code of Regulations, Section 20921 – Gas Monitoring and Control  
        • Title 27, California Code of Regulations, Section 20750 – Site Maintenance 
  • Inclusion of the Chiquita Canyon Landfill on the Inventory of Facilities that Violate State Minimum Standards (Inventory)
    • After confirming with the Los Angeles County LEA that the violations continue, CalRecycle issued notified the landfill operators on May 15, 2024, that the Chiquita Canyon Landfill is now on the Inventory through an inclusion letter. The LEA will continue to inspect the facility monthly and will provide inspection reports regarding the status of resolving the violations.
  • CalRecycle Technical Assistance to the Local Enforcement Agency
    • In November 2023, the LEA required the CCL to apply additional cover, perform a slope stability analysis, install temperature monitoring probes, and develop a plan to construct a reaction break if the incident continues to expand.  CalRecycle’s Engineering Support Branch staff continue to provide technical support to the LEA and the landfill operators on these issues. 
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  • Participation in Multiagency Site Visits
    • On November 2, 2023, staff from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Solid Waste Management Program, acting as the solid waste local enforcement agency (LEA), CalRecycle, South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB), the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency Region 9 (USEPAR9) conducted a site visit at the Chiquita Canyon Landfill. In addition, CalRecycle staff participated in a site visit on May 23, 2024, with LEA and USEPA staff to verify site conditions necessary to complete the review of the slope stability report.
  • Continued Technical and Enforcement Guidance
    • In December 2023, U.S. EPA Region 9 established a multi-agency coordination group, which CalRecycle is a member of, for all the agencies mentioned above to coordinate the enforcement, resolution of technical issues, and the release of public information. 
    • In February 2024, U.S. EPA Region 9, CalEPA, and Los Angeles County established the Response Multi-Agency Coordination Group (RMACG)to monitor and advise the operator of the Chiquita Canyon Landfill on the ongoing response to the reaction at the landfill. CalRecycle staff participate in the Environmental Unit of the RMACG with staff from the LEA, LARWQCB, DTSC, and the LA Co. DPW.

Visit CalRecycle’s Chiquita Canyon Sanitary Landfill webpage for more.    

California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC)

Role

The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has regulatory authority over facilities in California related to hazardous waste management, ensuring compliance with environmental laws, conducting inspections, and overseeing cleanup activities if contamination is detected. DTSC monitors the management, handling, treatment, and disposal of toxic substances and investigates violations of California’s Hazardous Waste Control Laws.  

DTSC has been closely collaborating with state, local, and federal agencies to respond to the exothermic reaction taking place at the Chiquita Canyon Landfill. DTSC has assisted with testing the leachate being created by the reaction and found that it contains levels of contamination making it a hazardous waste, resulting in several violations being issued to CCL as described below. DTSC will continue to investigate Chiquita Canyon’s management of hazardous waste and remains committed to collaborating with our regulatory partners at the local, state, and federal levels to prioritize the safety of the community and the environment. DTSC will serve an important role in the R-MAC, helping to safely manage the increasing levels of leachate being produced by the thermal event, including testing, storage, treatment, and disposal of any hazardous wastes. 

Key Actions

  • Summaries of Violations: 
    • On March 29, 2024, DTSC issued CCL a Summary of Violations. The three violations involved:
      • Failing to minimize the possibility of releases of hazardous waste or constituents by not utilizing all resources to demonstrate immediate response and failing to utilize permitted hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities.

      • Disposing of hazardous waste leachate at unauthorized locations.

      • Experiencing a release of hazardous waste leachate due to a ruptured hose during treatment processes, causing an employee injury and violating regulations regarding hazardous waste disposal and containment.

    • On March 1, 2024, DTSC issued a Summary of Violations to an offsite disposal facility called Avalon, owned by the Radford Alexander Corporation, for accepting hazardous waste from the Chiquita Canyon Landfill without the necessary permit. Avalon is an offsite disposal facility for nonhazardous waste and is not authorized to accept hazardous waste like the leachate sent there for disposal from the Chiquita Canyon Landfill. Such hazardous waste must go to permitted facilities for safe disposal to protect the public health and safety and the environment.  

    • On Feb. 15, 2024, DTSC issued CCL a Summary of Violations with five citations for improper hazardous waste management in violation of California’s Hazardous Waste Control Laws. Violations included failure to properly treat, store, and dispose of hazardous waste as required by law and failure to operate in a way that minimizes the possibility of an unauthorized discharge of hazardous waste.  

  • Proposition 65 Notice: 

    • On Feb. 16, 2024, DTSC notified Los Angeles County agencies of a threatened illegal discharge under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, more commonly known as Proposition 65. Proposition 65 requires such a notice when a government agency becomes aware of an illegal discharge or threatened illegal discharge of hazardous waste that is likely to cause substantial injury to the public health or safety.  

Learn more on the DTSC Chiquita Canyon webpage. 

Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board

Role

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, one of nine regional boards under the State Water Board umbrella, regulates the Chiquita Canyon Landfill through issuance and oversight of three permits: (1) waste discharge requirements to protect water quality from disposal of solid wastes to land, including provisions for leachate and landfill-gas condensate containment and groundwater monitoring;  (2) a General National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit to protect water quality from stormwater runoff associated with Industrial Activities, including provisions for effluent limits, non-stormwater discharge prohibitions, pollution prevention, and monitoring; and (3) a General NPDES Permit to protect water quality from stormwater runoff associated with Construction Activities, including provisions for non-stormwater discharge prohibitions, pollution prevention, and monitoring. 

The regional board reviews pollution prevention plans and monitoring reports, conducts inspections to determine compliance with permit provisions, and takes enforcement action for violations of permit provisions as necessary. 

Key Actions

  • Notice of Violation:
    • On April 9, 2024, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board issued a Notice of Violation to the landfill operator that was based on information received by the regional board in a series of complaints. The notice documents violations of the Industrial General Permit, including unauthorized discharges and best management practices (BMP) violations.

  • Notice of Violation:

    • On March 28, 2024, the Los Angeles Water Board issued a Notice of Violation to Waste Connections, Inc. for discharge prohibitions and for the failure to develop a complete stormwater pollution prevention plan and implement best management practices.

  • Investigative Order:
    • On March 20, 2024, the Los Angeles board issued an Investigative Order directing the landfill to install three new groundwater monitoring wells and sample any and all discharges into or out of the south sedimentation basin.
  • Notice of Violation:
    • On November 22, 2023, the Los Angeles board issued a Notice of Violation to the owner of the Chiquita Canyon Landfill in connection with violations of various waste discharge requirements.
California Air Resources Board (CARB)

Role

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is a member of the Chiquita Canyon Landfill technical advisory task force, providing its expertise and support to South Coast Air Quality Management District, the local air district with primary authority over non-moving (stationary) source air pollution such as Chiquita Canyon Landfill

CARB Chiquita Canyon webpage.

Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA)

Role

OEHHA is the lead state agency for the assessment of health risks posed by environmental contaminants. OEHHA’s mission is to protect the public health and environment through scientific evaluations that inform, support, and guide actions like the ongoing response at the Chiquita Canyon Landfill. OEHHA is participating in the R-MAC by supporting its public health assessment unit and is evaluating data being collected from the landfill and surrounding area to identify potential health risks, as well as providing its technical expertise to direct future health risk assessments as the thermal event continues.

Further Background and Info

On February 21, 2024, the U.S. EPA ordered CCL to take immediate steps to protect human health and the environment at the landfill. The Unilateral Administrative Order (UAO) issued by U.S. EPA, in coordination with the MCAT, requires CCL 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. The UAO requires CCL to provide a plan which meets these objectives and incorporates ongoing enforcement efforts by state and local agencies to ensure a comprehensive response to the challenges posed by the landfill. 

For more information on the Chiquita Canyon response: